Lobbying in Canada

Pervasive Industry; Profound Influence

“We provide exclusive coverage on who is influencing top decision makers on the federal scene and beyond… provide daily news and analysis about the strategies and people behind public policy advocacy, issues management, government relation campaigns and procurement in Canada.” – Lobbymonitor.com

We are all aware of those who advocate for a change, but the profession of lobbyist permeates big business and the associations that govern them.  A significant amount of human and financial resources pour into this industry annually in Canada to effect change – often times lobbying against each other to represent their short or long-term interests.

Example 1

LobbyMonitor.ca ran a headline [Funeral Service Association of Canada hires lobby group] on Feb 1, 2013.  It was not covered by any other media and still to my knowledge remains out of the public realm.  I immediately began to dig deeper to find the impetus for such a bold move in an industry that arguably is as old as human history.

Client: Funeral Service Association of Canada   

Lobby Firm: Impact Public Affairs

Lobbyist: Williams, HUV

Detail: Seeking to increase the funding provided for veteran funerals through the Last Post Fund.

As you may know, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, just weeks later, on March 21, 2013 released Canada’s “Budget 2013” and provided “$65 million over two years to simplify the Funeral and Burial Program for Canada’s veterans and more than double its reimbursement rate.”

To be sure, Members of the Funeral Services Association of Canada have long been offering below-market, even money-losing funerals for eligible Veteran’s (WW II and Korean War).  “Our members were providing similar services to veterans for significantly less than what the general public paid, meaning it was up to the funeral directors across Canada to subsidize this cost of the veteran’s funerals,” stated Phil Fredette, Government Relations Chair, Funeral Service Association of Canada (FSAC).

For this, their long-standing patriotism has been rewarded.  Budget 2013 is welcome news to their Members who now may collect up to $7,376 – more than double the pre-Budget 2013 funeral services compensation rate $3,600.

This timely decision from Minister Flaherty does not rest solely in the act of FSAC hiring a lobbyist, but the momentum within the halls of parliament ensured the voice of FSAC was being heard increasingly louder and with more persuasion.

This gesture by the federal government captures headlines but does not change the fact that eligibility requirements for coverage (service, disability and/or financial eligibility) remain grossly unjust.  The Funeral and Burial Program should be extended to all Veterans – including Modern Day Veterans.  Estate and income exemptions must be made in-line with today’s reality.   Advocacy and action is needed here.

Example 2

“If businesses can use government to rig the system to suppress competition, they will.” – John Stossel, Give Me a Break

In her April 10, 2013 article, journalist, LuAnn LaSalle states, “Small wireless companies say they’ll serve customers better outside a lobby group” arguing the wireless carrier industry lobby group (Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association) favours TELUS, Bell and Rogers.  “Wind Mobile, Public Mobile and Mobilicity say three-year contracts, roaming rates and tower sharing were among irritants that made them leave the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.”  The article goes on to quote Bob Boron, “Public Mobile paid between $50,000 and $100,000 in annual dues to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.”

Zachary Lutz of Engadget.com further added, “Wind, Mobilicity and Public Mobile withdraw from CWTA in protest.  The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association received a hell of a shock, as three of its newest members, Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile, withdrew from the group due to a perceived lack of representation.   The upstarts cited a “long-standing, mounting frustration with the CWTA’s consistent bias in favor of Rogers, Bell and TELUS,” which they framed as “directly contrary to the interests of new entrant wireless carriers.”

Twenty four hours later The Globe & Mail reports, “After more than three years in the market, Wind has about 600,000 subscribers, less than one-tenth of any of the big three.”

A further 24 hours later, The Globe reported, “The three main start-ups… have all been put up for sale as their owner’s tire of fighting the expensive battle to build networks and market share.  TELUS is in talks to buy Mobilicity.  Their value lay in their wireless spectrum assets and customers monthly recurring revenue.

Example 3

Major entities of our federal, provincial and territorial governments boast a “crown” in their emblem.  You may or may not be aware of the crown in so many figures; Governor General’s Flag, Canadian Forces.

“It was because of such contempt that the First Nations of Canada realized the pressing need to form a national Aboriginal lobby to fight for their rights in Ottawa”.

Astute readers would recognize the Coat of Arms shown in the following two images (1895-1897) is not the same as the Coat of Arms circa 1906.  The difference, the Union Flag now sits above the sun.  This had direct origins and implications to the Aboriginal discussions of the time, yet unresolved over 100 years later.

[The following content is paraphrased from the Assembly of First Nations website]

Many Canadians are unaware of the enormous problems that the Aboriginal peoples have faced on the road to political recognition in this country.  First Nations peoples are identified in the Constitution as one of the founding nations of Canada.  First Nations People were excluded from taking part in the Constitutional developments of Canada until the 1983-87 First Minister’s Conference on Aboriginal Rights. 

First Nations Peoples have had to work harder and faster in order to catch up with the federal and provincial governments in the fields of political knowledge, political reality, and especially in political expertise. The years of being excluded from Canada’s formal political process has left First Nations Peoples with an incredible void to fill just in order to attain a level of political, social, and legal knowledge that is on par with other groups in Canadian society.

The 1927 Indian Act:

Forbade First Nations people from forming political organizations.  Hence, it was common for a First Nations leader to be jailed by the RCMP for trying to organize any form of political group. This apartheid law prohibited traditional First Nation government systems from existing in the native communities. 

In addition to suppressing the political activity of First Nations, the 1927 Indian Act also denied the Aboriginal people of Canada from speaking their native language, or practicing their traditional religion. Aboriginal children attending residential schools were often severely punished for uttering even a single word of their native language.

The Potlatch ceremonies, a ritual common to most First Nations religions across the country, were declared illegal; in fact, only recently has their legality been approved by the federal government. Government officials, clergy, and educators were of the opinion that all Aboriginal cultures and traditions were a complete regression from, and affront to, their own supposedly superior English and French civilizations.

The result was and remains discrimination; exploitation; violations against basic human rights. All of these infractions were/are grossly ignored and/or glossed over by standard Canadian history textbooks.

The past cannot be changed, but yesterday’s injustices can be corrected by today’s political leaders. Significant progress has been made in the Canadian political arena. It was because of such contempt that the First Nations of Canada realized the pressing need to form a national Aboriginal lobby to fight for their rights in Ottawa.

I personally feel the next generation will further expand upon the tremendous momentum built over the past several years.  Canada (by Honour of the Crown) will make good on its “infractions” against all Aboriginal peoples.

This is an industry; a very lucrative industry!

The top lobby groups with the most contact with Federal officials over a nine-month period in 2012 was a shocking revelation at the sheer quantity of lobby materials put forth to our government by these independent organizations. A few examples include:

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers filed 178 reports lobbying on: pipeline regulation, tax credits, Clean Air Act related to greenhouse gas regulations
Canadian Bankers Association filed 131 reports lobbying on: do-not-call list, identity theft laws, corporate income tax

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association filed 113 reports lobbying on: livestock carcass grading regulations, imports of non-NAFTA beef and veal, financial loan guarantees, animal health

The Mining Association of Canada filed 105 reports lobbying on: environmental assessment regulations, skills training, corporate taxation, remediation of abandoned mines

Chicken Farmers of Canada filed 92 reports lobbying on: meat inspection regulations, poultry import tariffs, medicated feed mixing regulations
Canadian National Railway filed 88 reports lobbying on: First Nations land claims, replacement worker regulations.

By R. Brent Lang

R. Brent Lang, CIM FCSI, is active in the fields of finance and philanthropy.  He has received recognition as subject-matter specialist in finance, philanthropy and social enterprise.  He enjoys contributing to enterprising non-profit organizations with an emphasis on social entrepreneurship, planned giving, community impact / donor-relations and board governance.