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Justice

Question Period: The influence of lobbying and corporate donations

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.


Question


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?


Answer


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.


Supplemental Question


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?


Answer


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


 

Sources

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/.

Lobbying in British Columbia: The Way Forward: Report on Province-Wide Consultations and Recommendations for Reform, Elizabeth Denham, Registrar of Lobbyists. Available at: https://www.lobbyistsregistrar.bc.ca/handlers/DocumentHandler.ashx?ID=447.

‘Fairly limited’ transparency rules for lobbyists in B.C., deputy registrar says,  Liam Britten, CBC News. Available at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/lobbying-lobbyists-b-c-1.4014551.

British Columbia: The ‘wild west’ of fundraising, Kathy Tomlinson, CBC News. Available at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/investigations/wild-west-bc-lobbyists-breaking-one-of-provinces-few-political-donationrules/article34207677/.

Introducing two bills to protect dogs and encourage responsible pet ownership

Today in the Legislature I introduced two bills aimed at ensuring the humane treatment of dogs who end up being seized, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs. The first bill is entitled Bill M239 — Animal Liability Act, 2017 and is based on similar legislation in Manitoba. It ensures that owners of animals are held liable for the actions of their animals. I introduced a very similar version of the Animal Liability Act last year. My office and I subsequently undertook extensive discussions with numerous stakeholders. Earlier, we summarized some of these discussions, including the relationship of my bill with Section 49 of the Community Charter.

Our extensive consultations led us to tweak the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and to also propose amendments to Section 49 of the Community Charter. These changes had been recommended by the SPCA and are found in Bill M238, Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017.

Below I reproduce the text and video of my introduction of the two Bills. I append our media release at the end.


1) Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to introduce a bill intituled the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. This bill makes a number of changes to section 49 of the Community Charter, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. It adds legal clarity for proceedings and appeals in accordance with the Offence Act. It restricts the definition of a “dangerous dog” to a dog that kills or seriously injures a person or animal without provocation. It also creates standards of care for dogs held in long-term impounds, requiring that they have access to outdoor space and daily exercise. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care, a compassionate-release clause is included.

These are the changes that the BC SPCA has been calling for after seeing too many situations in which vague legislation has led to unjust suffering of impounded dogs. With this act, we seek to ensure the humane treatment of dogs who end up in the system, while upholding public protection from dangerous dogs.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M238, Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction



2) Animal Liability Act, 2017


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Animal Liability Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Animal Liability Act. According to the Canada Safety Council, more than 460,000 dog bites occur each year in Canada. Over the years, British Columbians have called on B.C. legislators to act. Here in B.C., we do not have adequate laws to ensure that owners are liable for the actions of their pets or animals. Indeed, we only have liability being imposed on the basis of scienter doctrine, negligence or, in some cases, the Occupiers Liability Act.

This bill would ensure that owners are liable for any damages resulting from harm that the animals cause to a person or property. This bill, based on similar legislation that exists in Manitoba, is designed to ensure that owners of animals take ownership seriously and are held responsible for the actions of their pets.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M239, Animal Liability Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction



Media Release


Weaver tables bills to ensure responsible pet ownership and the protection of dogs
For immediate release
March 9, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – In 2015, Buttons the Therapy Dog – who worked at hospitals comforting and cheering up patients – was so aggressively attacked by another dog that he had to be immediately put down.

The owners of the violent dog had been instructed to keep their pet secured and muzzled because of an incident with a different dog just a few months prior. When Buttons walked by with his owners Yvonne and John McDonald, however, it had been left unrestrained. Because of existing B.C. laws, irresponsible pet owners seldom face any consequences for the actions of their dogs. Since losing Buttons, Yvonne and John have been advocating for the need for animal liability laws in B.C.

Today in the legislature, Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, introduced the Animal Liability Act, 2017 and the Community Charter Amendment Act, 2017. The Animal Liability Act is modeled on Manitoba’s legislation and makes owners directly liable for any damages caused by their pets. The Community Charter Amendment Act would add legal clarity and humane treatment standards to Section 49, which regulates special powers in relation to dangerous dogs. Consideration for the circumstances around a dog attack are introduced, as are standards of care for dogs held in long term impounds. For seriously ill dogs in need of veterinary care a compassionate release clause is included.

“The evidence clearly points towards irresponsible pet owners being the problem, but right now our legislation only penalizes the dogs themselves,” said Weaver.

Currently, if a dog severely bites someone, under Section 49 of the Community Charter that dog could be seized and destroyed, but the owner would not necessarily face any charges, be responsible for any damages, or be restricted from future pet-ownership.

“We need clear liability legislation so that owners are required to ensure their pets responsibly trained, well taken care of, behave safely – and that they are held to account if their pet does behave in a dangerous manner,” said Weaver.

“Ultimately I brought this issue forward because there is a gap in our legislative framework in B.C. regarding pets and pet ownership liability. Other provinces have addressed it, and while I don’t think it is wise to follow Ontario’s lead in banning certain breeds, we do need something to ensure that pet owners are responsible for the behaviour of their pets and that there are stiff penalties for not being a responsible pet owner.”

The Animal Liability Act does not, nor is it intended to, put full liability on pet owners if their dog acts out of self defence or in response to aggression. The context that led to a bite is as important as the fact that a bite took place.

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Media contacts
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca

 

Introducing a bill to prevent sexist high heel dress codes in the workplace

Today in the legislature I introduced a bill in the legislature designed to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes in the workplace. The Bill is entitled: Bill M237 — Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017.

Recently the Tyee published an article highlighting a discriminatory practice in the restaurant industry wherein female workers are being forced to wear high heels. This followed another Tyee article written in 2015 focusing on the controversy that erupted when the Cannes film festival banned flat shoes on women attending the event. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

Earlier this week the UK parliament debated a petition to end sexist high heel dress codes. Ending this practice will be put to law there shortly.

Below I reproduce the text and video of the bill’s introduction.


Text of Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name, be introduced and read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: I’m pleased to be introducing a bill intituled the Workers Compensation Amendment Act. This act amends the Workers Compensation Act to prevent employers from setting varying footwear and other requirements based on gender, gender expression or gender identity. As a result, for example, this act would prevent employers from requiring select employees to wear high-heeled shoes.

The Tyee‘s recent series on sexism in B.C.’s restaurant industry shone a spotlight on the harassment and sexist dress code policies faced by servers across British Columbia. Many employers require that female staff wear high heels. This footwear can be extremely uncomfortable and unsafe.

This week, the U.K. Parliament is debating a petition that would ban employers from requiring high heels at work. As Samantha Power, former U.S. ambassador to the UN wrote, highlighting the absurdity of this law: “The next petition should be one requiring men to wear high heels for a nine-hour shift before they insist women do.” We are very far from an inclusive, gender-equal province, and today, International Women’s Day, seems an appropriate time to take this overdue step.

I move that the bill be placed on the orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.

Bill M237, Workers Compensation Amendment Act, 2017, introduced, read a first time and ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of Introduction


Standing up for Resident Hunters over Foreign Trophy Hunters

Today in the legislature I introduced Bill M234 — Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017.

This bill combined two previous bills that I had introduced in the legislature. The BC Liberals did not wish to bring either of these to second reading. The first Bill was to designed to reduce the preferential treatment of non-resident hunters by eliminating the minister’s discretion to make separate rules for resident and foreign hunters when it comes to obtaining LEH permits. This bill requires all hunters to enter a lottery for their LEH tags, as is done in other jurisdictions.

The second Bill I had already introduced was designed to ensure that all edible portions of animals hunted in British Columbia are taken to the hunter’s domicile. In addition, the proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations. These put in place a major logistical barrier to foreign trophy hunting.

Two new additions were included in the updated bill. I am grateful to the feedback I received on my earlier bills that led to these modifications. First, if passed this bill would require that edible portions be packed out prior to, or in conjuction with, any other body parts of the game carcass. This is consistent with the notion is that hunting is primarily for food and the the trophy should be viewed as a by-catch.

The second addition would disallow those convicted of fisheries or wildlife offences from becoming fishing or hunting guides in the province of British Columbia.

Below I reproduce the text and video on my introduction along with the accompanying press release .


Text of the Introduction


A. Weaver: I move that a bill intituled Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017, of which notice has been given in my name on the order paper, be read a first time now.

Motion approved.

A. Weaver: It gives me great pleasure to introduce this bill that, if enacted, would make a number of changes to the Wildlife Act.

This bill restricts the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to kill large game by making three specific amendments to the Wildlife Act. The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations, ensures all edible portions of animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to a hunter’s residence, and requires the meat to be taken out first, before the hide or head.

This bill also stops government from letting non-resident hunters buy preferential access to limited-entry hunting permits and bans people convicted of fisheries or wildlife offences from becoming fishing or hunting guides in the province of British Columbia.

For local sustenance hunters, the vast majority of hunters in B.C. that is, this bill merely echoes what they are already doing — harvesting wild game to bring the meat home to feed their families. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to hunt an animal only for its hide, skull or antler, this bill puts in place a significant logistical challenge.

Bill M234, Wildlife Amendment Act, 2017, introduced and read a first time.

A. Weaver: At this time, I move, pursuant to standing order 78a, that this bill be referred to the Select Standing Committee on Parliamentary Reform, Ethical Conduct, Standing Orders and Private Bills for immediate review.

Madame Speaker: I will point out that that’s a departure in practice.

All those in favour? Nay is heard. Division has been called.

A. Weaver: May I have this referred to second reading — a motion to do so?

Bill M234, Wildlife Amendment Act, ordered to be placed on orders of the day for second reading at the next sitting of the House after today.


Video of the Introduction



Media Release


Weaver tables Wildlife Amendment Act to Committee Stage – Liberals vote Nay
For immediate release
March 6th, 2017

VICTORIA B.C. – Today in the legislature MLA Andrew Weaver tabled the Wildlife Amendment Act directly to committee stage, leading to an immediate vote in the House. Weaver and the B.C. NDP voted in favour of moving the bill directly to committee stage for review. The B.C. Liberals voted against it.

“This bill works to ensure that sustainable, respectful sustenance hunting in British Columbia is grounded in a science-based conservation policy and that the interests of residents hunters are put ahead of foreign trophy hunters.

“It is clear these are values the B.C. Liberals do not share – as illustrated by their vote against further consulting on this bill today. But, I am glad to see that the B.C. NDP support my initiatives on this file,” says Weaver.

The bill would restrict the practices of non-resident trophy hunters who come to B.C. to hunt large game by making three specific amendments to the Wildlife Act. The proposed changes remove grizzly bears from the list of animals exempt from meat harvesting regulations, ensures all edible portions of animals killed in B.C. are taken directly to the hunter’s residence, and requires the meat to be taken out first – before the hide or head. For non-resident trophy hunters coming to B.C. to hunt an animal solely for its hide, skull, or antlers this puts in place a prohibitive logistical challenge.

The bill also stops the government from letting non-resident hunters buy preferential access to limited-entry-hunt permits. And lastly, it bans people convicted of fisheries or wildlife offenses in B.C. and other jurisdictions from becoming fishing or hunting guides.

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Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca


Welcoming Elections BC investigation into political contributions

Weaver welcomes Elections BC investigation into political contributions
March 6th, 2017
For immediate release

VICTORIA B.C. – Today Andrew Weaver, Leader of the B.C. Green Party, welcomed the news that Elections BC is investigating potential contraventions of the Election Act.

“I’m thrilled that Elections BC will be investigating the information regarding indirect political contributions and other potential contraventions of the Election Act that were recently made public through the media,” says Weaver, also the MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head.

“However, this issue is so serious and of such consequence to British Columbians that I am also asking the RCMP to determine whether there are grounds for a criminal investigation. I will be sending the RCMP a letter this afternoon.”

Media reports over the weekend allege that many donations to the Liberals are made fraudulently or in violation of the Election Act and that the Liberals are encouraging this behaviour by holding cash for access events. The Liberals raised more than $12 million last year, more than any provincial political party in power. The B.C. NDP, which also accepts both corporate and union donations, have also allegedly pressured lobbyists for donations. The NDP have not released fundraising figures for 2016 but raised $3 million in 2015.

“It is crucial that all investigations be done in a thorough and timely manner, and that the results be released before the May 9th election. British Columbians have a right to know, before they cast their ballot, whether the B.C. Liberal Party or the B.C. NDP have broken the law.”

The B.C. Green Party stopped accepting corporate and union donations in September.

“This situation shows clearly the need for wholesale political finance reform in B.C,” says Weaver. “It’s time for British Columbians to take back B.C.”

– 30 –

Media contact
Mat Wright, Press Secretary
+1 250-216-3382 | mat.wright@leg.bc.ca