Today in the Legislature I was up in Question Period. I questioned the Minister of Justice, Suzanne Anton, about the lobbying and donation practices of the fossil fuel industry and the effect on government decision-making. I also asked about reforms needed to regulate the lobbying industry in BC and bring it in line with federal standards.
My question follows reports in the media over this week that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients, as well as a recent analysis that maps the influence of the fossil fuel industry in BC politics, highlighting extensive lobbying practices and vast amounts of political donations. Both reports can be found at the end of this article.
Below are the text and video of the exchange. I was disappointed with the Minister’s answers. She merely restated that we have a registry of lobbyists in BC. We do have a registry, but its usefulness as a tool of transparency is severely limited, since lobbyists are not required to report the meetings they hold with public office holders. Moreover, we have no code of conduct for lobbyists to regulate practices such as gift-giving to public office holders. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recommended both of these measures, back in 2013, as important ways to make lobbying practices more transparent in BC. Yet the government has ignored these recommendations and the Minister of Justice was unwilling to engage on this serious issue.
A. Weaver: Vast amounts of money are flowing from fossil fuel companies to both the B.C. Liberals and — to a much lesser extent, mind you — the B.C. NDP.
Between 2008 and 2015, 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups donated $5.2 million to the government and official opposition and reported more than 22,000 lobbying contacts with public officials between 2010-2016. With seven of the top donors also ranking among the most active lobbyists, there is a substantial overlap between those who give money and those who get meetings.
To further that, 28 percent of lobbying by the top-ten most active lobbyists has been directly with cabinet ministers — an unrivaled level of access — and the Minister of Natural Gas Development is the most targeted member in the entire Legislature.
In light of this, my question to the Minister of Justice is this. How does the government expect the public to trust that their interests are being protected and that these practices are not buying lobbyists and their clients special treatment?
Hon. S. Anton: It may be that the member was not here yesterday to know that we actually established the first-ever lobbyist registry in 2002 to establish transparency so British Columbians could see who is doing the lobbying. There never was a registry before that. After some years of experience with that registry, we updated it in 2009, creating one of the strongest regimes for lobbyist registration in Canada.
The updates increased the registrar’s powers and duties so the lobbyist registrar now has the power to conduct investigations, to compel testimony and to compel documents. In other words, the lobbyist registrar has the tools that he or she needs in order to make sure that the registry is conducted properly and that the lobbyists are conducting themselves in accordance with the rules, which is what I expect, which is what we expect as a government.
A. Weaver: I’m glad the minister talked about the lobbying registry, because frankly, we are one of the weaker in the country of Canada. B.C. lacks rules to regulate lobbying practices and ensure transparency.
We know that extensive lobbying is ongoing in B.C., but we have no code of conduct for lobbyists. Moreover, we have no requirement in B.C. for lobbyists to register actual meetings with public office holders. All they have to do is register who they plan to lobby. Other jurisdictions in Canada have much stricter standards.
It’s clear to me that with our rampant cash-for-access system and allegations that lobbyists are engaging in illegal donation practices on behalf of their clients — largely to the B.C. Liberals but also to the B.C. NDP — that we need much more stringent rules. We need standards against which the public can hold lobbyists and their contacts in the government to account.
My question to the Minister of Justice is: will the minister commit to transparency on lobbying practices, including requiring lobbyists to report on actual meetings held with government officials and creating a code of conduct for lobbyists?
Hon. S. Anton: The matter that the member referred to about contributions is very clearly, if that were to happen, a breach not of the lobbyists act but of the Election Act. The Election Act in section 186(2)(b) says that “an individual may make a political contribution with the money of another individual, but must disclose to the individual required to record the contribution under section 190….”
In other words, you can make a payment on behalf of a third party, but the third party must be disclosed. It must be very clear that it is that third party’s money which has gone to the payment. That is a breach of the Election Act. It is very clearly a breach if that is conducted. I think that that’s the conduct the member is referring to.
In fact, to the lobbying act itself, the 2009 updates to the act put very strict and significant penalties into that act for breaches of the act.
Video from Question Period
Mapping Political Influence: Political donations and lobbying by the fossil fuel industry in BC, Corporate Mapping Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Available at: http://www.corporatemapping.ca/bc-influence/.
Statement on BC NDP climate action plan & B.C. Liberal response February 2nd, 2017 For immediate release
Vancouver, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, leader of the B.C. Green Party, has released the following statement on the B.C. NDP climate action plan and the B.C. Liberal response. Weaver is in Vancouver today and available for interviews from 2:45 to 6:00pm.
“What we just saw today is the reason why I got into politics. Climate change is one of the biggest economic and social issues facing our province, and we need politicians from all parties working towards real solutions.
“Yet sadly we see the Liberals leaking a memo to try to undermine climate action and the NDP releasing a plan that is more of a communications exercise than substantive policy.
“Neither party are asking: What do we really need to do to address climate change and how do we get it done? The BC Liberals have largely abandoned their climate leadership under Christy Clark, while the NDP are only committing to do the bare minimum that is required by the federal government.
“Let’s be honest. The NDP plan is not a Made in BC solution. Their plan is based around federal measures that were designed to achieve targets that were set by Stephen Harper. I have worked in this field for 25 years. Their plan will not reduce carbon emissions if they also intend to support the LNG industry. The two simply do not go hand-in-hand.
“British Columbians can count on the BC Green Party to put forward an evidence based policy that will build on our unique strengths as a province, grow our economy and tackle climate change.”
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Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | email@example.com
For Immediate Release December 9th, 2016 Weaver’s Statement on Premier Clark’s obstructionist approach to Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change
VICTORIA B.C. – “Following reports that the Arctic sea ice extent has hit a new record November low, Premier Christy Clark actively obstructed National efforts to address climate change,” says Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party. “The challenges are too big, the consequences are too profound, and the opportunities are too significant for British Columbia to continue to be a barrier in the formulation of a national climate plan. Premier Clark is risking Canada’s national climate plan so she can turn it into a populist election issue in BC.”
Joining her two Conservative counterparts in Saskatchewan and Manitoba, Premier Clark blindsided the federal government today with her attempts to derail the development of a national climate plan. While begrudgingly agreeing to sign on late in the day, Premier Clark once more missed an opportunity to demonstrate leadership on this file.
“We need a diversified, sustainable 21st century economy–one that will serve today’s generation without burdening generations to come. And being a leader in that transition is where the economic opportunities lie. As it currently stands British Columbia is still recklessly chasing the LNG pipedream while literally paying corporations to take natural gas out of the ground. This approach does not serve today’s British Columbians well, and it is sabotaging opportunities for the next generation.”
“Windfalls will be enjoyed by those who move first with vision, not latecomers to a developed market. We should be identifying and seizing B.C.’s competitive advantages – our access to cheap, renewable energy, our educated workforce, our innovative business community, and the quality of life we can offer here.”
“A B.C. Green government would embrace a national climate strategy, increase the carbon levy and bring back in the Cap and Trade enabling legislation that was repealed by the Clark government.”
Media Statement: September 27th, 2016 PNW Approval Fails Climate Tests For Immediate Release
Victoria, B.C. – Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head and Leader of the BC Green Party issued the following statement following the Federal Government’s approval of the PNW LNG facility:
“I am thoroughly disappointed in the Federal Government’s approval of the Pacific Northwest LNG facility late yesterday even though market conditions are such that it almost certainly will never be built. The Federal government is now chasing the exact same roller coaster economics that the BC Liberals committed themselves to with their LNG hype 4 years ago, and all the instability and uncertainty that it brings.
“In an initial review of the conditions provided, I am confident that the Federal government is not living up to its own rhetoric about taking climate change seriously. This project represents one of the single biggest sources of carbon pollution in the country. What’s worse, is that it sends the wrong message to the international community about Canada’s commitment to its international obligations.
“In signing the Paris climate agreement Trudeau stated: ‘Today, with my signature, I give you our word that Canada’s efforts will not cease… Climate change will test our intelligence, our compassion and our will. But we are equal to that challenge.’ Yesterday, Prime Minister Trudeau broke his word.
“British Columbians are increasingly uncertain about the path our province is on, and they only need to look next door in Alberta to see what happens when a single resource is prioritized above an innovative and diverse economy. I am constantly surprised by the narrow vision that the BC Liberals have for our economy.
“I believe our opportunities lie not in developing yet another GHG intensive fossil fuel resource, but in building on our strengths – our abundant renewable resources and our educated workforce in developing an economy that becomes an innovation hub for the world.
Mat Wright – Press Secretary
1 250 216 3382
Media Statement – August 19, 2016 Climate Action Announcement Definitely Not Leadership For immediate release
Victoria B.C. – Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay – Gordon Head and leader of the B.C. Green Party calls the B.C. Government Climate Action announcement disappointing and lacking leadership.
“Not only has the Clark government dismantled many of the existing climate policies, but they are also ignoring key recommendations from their own expert panel on what needs to happen for B.C. to once again become a climate leader.
“For the past few years it has become painfully clear that the B.C. Liberals have chosen to forgo any leadership on this file, instead choosing to chase the LNG pipedream.
“As we go into another year with temperature records again being smashed across the world and in B.C., this government is content to fiddle and play games with carbon accounting. Without increasing the carbon levy there is no hope that British Columbia will meet its GHG reduction targets.
“For fifteenth consecutive month in a row, July 2016 emerged as the warmest month since measurements have been collected. Average global temperatures for the year-to-date period January-July 2016 shattered the previous record set in 2015. The government’s plan doesn’t demonstrate leadership. It demonstrates complacency and a wilful disregard of the urgency of dealing with climate change.
“British Columbia has an opportunity to become a leader in this world, establishing a 21st century economy built on innovation and clean technology. This goal cannot be realized with the current administration’s directionless approach to governance.
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Backgrounder – Changes since Christy Clark became Premier
Under Premier Gordon Campbell, British Columbia emerged as an international leader in climate policy. But since Christy Clark has taken over at the helm, we’ve move from being a leader to becoming a laggard. The legacy of Premier Clark’s so-called climate leadership to date is as follows:
The Clean Energy Act was amended to exclude emissions for liquefaction in LNG industry;