New Brunswick

Brian Gallant questions lobbyist registry delay

It’s been more than seven years since a Liberal government in New Brunswick first promised to establish a lobbyist registry and there is still no system up and running.

Premiers Shawn Graham and David Alward both promised but never delivered a lobbyist registry

Premier Brian Gallant said he supports a lobbyist registry and he doesn't understand why it has taken so long. (CBC)
It’s been more than seven years since a Liberal government in New Brunswick first promised to establish a lobbyist registry and there is still no system up and running.

Premier Brian Gallant has become the third straight premier to publicly support the idea of the registry — though he acknowledged this month he wasn’t sure why it still doesn’t exist.

“I’ve actually asked the [Executive Council Office] to give me an update on exactly where it is and why it might have stalled,” he said.

Liberal Premier Shawn Graham first promised a registry in 2007, but never put one in place.

The Progressive Conservative government of David Alward passed the Lobbyists’ Registration Act in May.

But to take effect, the cabinet must proclaim the act and write regulations that will lay out how it operates.

It appears the Alward cabinet did not get around to that before losing power in the Sept. 22 provincial election.

David Alward's Progressive Conservatives passed a lobbyist registration law but it never came into effect. (CBC)
That means it’s now up to Gallant to finish the process.

“We very much support a lobbyist registration act,” the premier said on Nov. 7.

“I’ve supported that since I became leader of the party, so we want to understand why it hasn’t been enacted and why the follow-through hasn’t happened … and what barriers remain.”

The act would require lobbyists — professionals who work on behalf of clients seeking to influence government policy — to register publicly. Violators would be fined.

“It is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is attempting to influence government,” the act says.

Shawn Graham promised a lobbyist registration act seven years ago, but he never set one up. (CBC)
Lobbyists would be required to disclose, among other things, who they represent.

Similar registries exist for the federal government and in most provinces. Many such registries require lobbyists to disclose who they meet and what topics they discuss.

Doug Tyler, a former Liberal cabinet minister whose work as a lobbyist has been controversial in the past, says he supports the registry and hopes it’s established soon.

“It’s there for everybody to see, it’s been a long time coming and they should do it as quickly as possible,” he says.

Not about knowing people, lobbyist says

Tyler, a former minister of natural resources and deputy premier, works part-time as a consultant for J.D. Irving Ltd.

In that role, he’s been involved with a local committee in the Grand Lake-area working on labour shortage issues.

When the Liberals were last in power, Tyler was listed in invoices as working as a lobbyist for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. when it was trying to build a second nuclear reactor at Point Lepreau.

Tyler had been Liberal premier Shawn Graham’s campaign manager in 2006, worked on the Graham government’s transition team and later returned to work for Graham as a deputy minister.

Tyler says he believes his work would be subject to the Lobbyists’ Registration Act.

“From time to time, not on a regular basis, I would have contact with government,” he says.

Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of people who aren’t quite sure how government works.- Doug Tyler

“Sometimes that’s at the bureaucratic level and sometimes that’s at the political level, so I would suspect that would be covered by the registry.”

He says the role of a lobbyist — or “government relations” consultant as it is known in the business — is less about “knowing people” and using those connections than about drawing on the person’s expertise and experience.

“Surprisingly enough, there are a lot of people who aren’t quite sure how government works,” he says.

“It’s about how government works and how you advance a particular view, or purpose, that you’re working on.”

J.D. Irving first approached Tyler in 2011 about labour shortages at its Chipman mill.

That led to him getting involved with the local committee trying to address the difficulty many employers — including Irving — were having finding workers in the area.

The committee, in turn, has met several times with government officials, including when the Alward PCs were in office.

Tyler says there’s no reason the public shouldn’t know about that.

“I have no problem saying who I work for,” he says.

“I’m very proud of what we do and proud of the community I work with. If there’s a registry and I’m required to register, I’ll register.”

Timeline: 7 years of debate and counting

Both the Liberal government of Shawn Graham and the PC government of David Alward promised a lobbyist registry law, but failed to fully implement such a law.

Here’s a timeline of the debate over a lobbyists’ registry in New Brunswick:

June 2007: The Liberal government of Premier Shawn Graham promised a lobbyist registry as part of its official response to the Commission on Legislative Democracy, a study commissioned by the previous PC government of Bernard Lord.

“This new lobbyist registry will help ensure that New Brunswickers know who is lobbying their government and for what purpose,” Government House Leader Stuart Jamieson said.

June 2008: CBC News, using the federal Access to Information Act, revealed that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., hired Revolution Strategy’s Doug Tyler as a lobbyist to support its pitch to build a second nuclear reactor in New Brunswick.

Tyler had been Premier Shawn Graham’s campaign manager.

December 2008: Tyler returned to work in Graham’s office as deputy minister of strategic planning, provoking criticism from the Opposition PCs.

Graham said he was looking at setting up a shared, regional lobbyists’ registry with Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador.

May 2009: With no progress on a regional registry, the Graham Liberals said they’ll consider voting in favour of a bill introduced by the PC Opposition to set up a provincial registry.

November 2009: The legislature’s law amendments committee met to hear from the public about the PC lobbyist registry bill, but no one showed up. Later that month, the bill died when the legislature prorogued for a new session and Throne Speech.

June 2, 2011: The PC government of Premier David Alward introduced a new bill to set up a lobbyist registry.

“Lobbyists will need to be registered, they will need also to name the companies that they are working for, and they will also need to name the ministers and the departments they have met,” said Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud.

June 10, 2011: Eight days after introducing the bill, Robichaud announced it will not be passed by the end of the session.

"We're having some issue with the technology,” he said. “The software will not be ready for lobbyists to get registered.”

Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau suggested the PCs were trying to avoid being transparent. “They introduced it to be able to say they introduced it, but they haven't done anything with it since,” he said.

January 2012: CBC News revealed that Angie Leonard, the sister of Energy Minister Craig Leonard, had been hired as a lobbyist by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

The information came to light thanks to the federal government’s lobbyist registry, where Angie Leonard was required to register.

November 2013: Deputy Premier Paul Robichaud reintroduced the lobbyist registry bill in the Legislature.

“Every lobbyist will have an obligation to register their company, register their name, and also to register their clients to the office of the ombudsman,” he said. “That information will be available and public through the website of the province of New Brunswick.”

May 2014: The Legislature gave final approval to the lobbyist registry bill, passing it into law during a rush of votes at the end of the session. The Liberals accused the PC government of waiting until the last minute.

The Tories "didn't want to, within their mandate, respect the legislation that they brought in at the last minute,” says Liberal MLA Roger Melanson. The bill received Royal Assent, but cannot take effect until cabinet proclaims it and passes regulations.

Nov. 7, 2014: New Liberal Premier Brian Gallant said he asked the civil service “to give me an update on exactly where it is and where it might have stalled.” Gallant reiterated his support for the lobbyist registry.

“We want to understand why it hasn’t been enacted and why the follow-through hasn’t happened,” he said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. He grew up in Moncton and covered Parliament in Ottawa for the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. He has reported on every New Brunswick election since 1995 and won awards from the Radio Television Digital News Association, the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He is also the author of five non-fiction books about New Brunswick politics and history.

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