Federal Crown Corporations exempt
from Harper government's new lobbying rules
[PoliticsWatch updated 4:55 p.m. April 2, 2007]
|New lobbying regulations won't change Crown Corporations' ability to lobby government
OTTAWA — Prime
Minister Stephen Harper's election promise to clean up lobbying will
maintain a large loophole that private sector firms say gives Crown
Corporations an unfair advantage.
Crown Corporations are allowed to communicate with government
departments with in-house staff but they are not subject to the same
rules on lobbying as in-house lobbyists at private firms and
Although the Accountability Act received Royal Assent late last
year, regulations are still being drafted for the government's
new rules that crack down on lobbying.
Among the regulations being drafted are those regarding lobbyists
having to report their meetings with public office holders to an
independent registrar of lobbyists' office.
Confusion about the new regulations and concerns about the
additional burden of having to report meetings is creating
complaints about how in-house government relations staff that work
for Crown Corporations, such as the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, Canada Post and Via Rail
are exempt from lobbying rules.
These federal Crown Corporations often compete
with private sector companies on a range of policy, regulation and
When contacted by PoliticsWatch, one Crown Corporation, CBC, denied
their in-house staff are lobbyists.
"CBC/Radio-Canada does not have any lobbyists," a CBC
spokesperson said in an email response.
But private competitors disagree.
"They're privileged lobbyists," said one Ottawa lobbyist about
in-house staff at Crown Corporations. "They don't have to register anything."
"They call them Parliamentary liaison people or whatever. So they liase with officials.
That's the same thing as lobbying."
A private broadcasting lobbyist told PoliticsWatch that having a
competitor such as CBC not subject to the same rules as the private
sector is "absolutely unfair."
"From a broadcasting point of view I mean CBC is lobbying every day,"
he said. "They have a full government relations operations and one would think that they should be subject to the same rules
as other broadcasters."
"Sure they're a Crown Corporation, but still they lobby CRTC commissioners, they lobby
Heritage for funding, they lobby Finance. Why would they be
exempt?" the broadcast industry lobbyist asked. "They see the same people we
Another lobbyist told PoliticsWatch that maintaining this exemption
"will tilt the playing field in favour of Crown Corporations
over private Canadian businesses. This is fundamentally unfair from
broadcasting to postal services."
Treasury Board referred PoliticsWatch's questions about whether new
regulations would include in-house Crown Corporations government
relations staff to the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.
"As the regulations under the new act have not been developed yet, it is not possible for me to answer your
question," a spokesman for the registrar said in a written
A January response to a question issued by the registrar explained
the Crown Corporation exemption.
"The Registrar of Lobbyists is of the view that communications between employees of a Crown corporation and public office holders concerning official business are not registerable
activities," the document explained.
"In particular, the Registrar feels that communications between officials of a Crown corporation and representatives of its shareholder (public office holders), the Crown, do not fall within the definition of lobbying under the Lobbyists Registration Act. Therefore, Crown corporations are not required to register under the Act."
Under current interpretations Crown Corporations must do all such
work from inside and are discouraged from hiring outside consultants
or intermediaries such as lawyers to approach the government.
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