Saskatchewan

Sask. lobbyist 'loophole' should be closed: NDP

The Saskatchewan NDP is asking the government to revamp its lobbying legislation to close "loopholes" in the system.

Minister of Justice says changes will be made

The NDP and provincial government agree that rules around lobbyiing should change but they differ on the details. (Shutterstock / Pressmaster)

The Saskatchewan NDP is asking the government to revamp its lobbying legislation to close "loopholes" in the system.

The Minister of Justice Don Morgan said the province will make changes but only after it does its own analysis.

The province brought in a lobbyist registry in 2016. There are two types of lobbyists under the current rules.

Paid "consultant" lobbyists must register. An "in-house" lobbyist, who is an employee, officer or director of corporation must register once they reach a threshold of 100 hours of lobbying.

Meili said everyone should be required to register.

"You have to be clear what's real lobbying versus what's happened to run into somebody at a dinner or in public. Make it very clear what it is. All of it should be recorded."

On Thursday, NDP leader Ryan Meili introduced a bill on lobbying rules and regulations. 

"We need to know what's going on in terms of who is bending their ear, who is trying to make them make certain decisions and 100 hours is just too big of a threshold to have any idea what's really going on," Meili said.

The opposition's proposed changes are:

  • Require all in-house lobbyists to register, removing the 100-hour cap.
  • Ban public office holders, MLAs, government employees and staff to cabinet ministers from accepting gifts.
  • End the exemption for non-profits from registering in the registry, except for non-profits with fewer than five employees.

Government considering changes

Ron Barclay, the province's conflict of interest commissioner and lobbyists registrar, has recommended the threshold of lobbying hours be reduced from 100 hours to zero.

"The 100 hour threshold that permits lobbying to go undisclosed is not in keeping with the purpose of the Act, which is to promote transparency. It is quite feasible for a company to achieve their mandate with far less than 100 hours of lobbying by an in-house lobbyist," Barclay wrote in his 2017-18 annual report.

Morgan said the government will not likely go as far as 100 to zero, noting Alberta is in the process of reducing its threshold to 50 hours.

"I think it's right that it be reduced but we think there needs to be some different kind of a threshold other than 50 [hours]," Morgan said.

"We want to be able to avoid having to report on casual conversations."

Morgan said the government will also make amendments in regards to the cooling-off period in which former MLAs can lobby the government.

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ron Barclay and Registrar of the Lobbyists Act recommended the threshold for i-house lobbying be reduced from 100 hours to zero. (CBC)

Barclay recommended allowing former members be permitted to "obtain advice from the Commissioner regarding their obligations at any time during the cooling off period".

On the subject of accepting gifts, Barclay wrote in his 2017-18 report, "I recommend a clause be added to The Lobbyists Act prohibiting lobbyists from giving any gifts to any public office holder."

About the Author

Adam Hunter

Journalist

Adam Hunter is the provincial affairs reporter at CBC Saskatchewan, based in Regina. He has been with CBC for 12 years. He hosts the CBC podcast On the Ledge. Follow him on Twitter @AHiddyCBC. Contact him: adam.hunter@cbc.ca

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