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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Don’t restrict lobbyists; restrict government

There’s an old political joke that goes something like this: “Don’t tell my mom I'm a lobbyist. She thinks I play the piano in a whorehouse.”

It’s easy to hate lobbyists. Most voters think lobbyists sneak around representing the interests of either big business or big labour, undermining the democratic process.

Lobbyists, of course, proliferate directly in correlation to the size and scope of government and the corresponding opportunities to rent seek, free ride, curry favour, and generally live at the expense of others.

So the Federal Accountability Act, the Lobbyist Registration Act and other government measures to restrict and monitor lobbyists address a symptom while ignoring the disease. These measures also expand the power of government to restrict political activity, much like the draconian campaign finance laws, all in the interest of democracy.

Maclean’s magazine is reporting today with some concern that defeated Quebec Conservative backbencher Luc Harvey has started a new career as a lobbyist for two Quebec-based companies — Télécabines Skylink and Composte GL.  The Federal Accountability Act restricts ministers, senior civil servants and senior political staffers from acting as lobbyists for five years, a “cooling off” period designed to reduce political corruption. The rule, however, doesn’t apply to lowly MPs like Harvey.

Maclean’s thinks this situation is “unfair,” but what’s really unfair is registering political activity while ignoring the ever increasing reach of government. My advice: worry less about Harvey's new job, and worry more about Harper's current one.

Posted by Matthew Johnston

Posted by westernstandard on April 8, 2009 | Permalink


As a lobbyist, er Government Relations Consultant, I can tell you the less well government works, the more work we have. Lobbyist perform a vital function and without us governments in Canada would be even more dysfunctional than they are now.

Posted by: Mike Geoghegan | 2009-04-09 10:02:36 PM

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