On June 15, 2021, the Legislative Assembly approved Government Motion 86, which referred the Lobbyists Act to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future for review.
As one of the 12 members of this Committee and the lone Independent, I, perhaps naively, saw this as an opportunity to cut through the often too-partisan nature of the committee process.
Like Many Canadians, I fondly remember back in 2006, the very first bill introduced by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper after his historic defeat of the Liberals – the Accountability Act. The Conservative Party of Canada came into power in the wake of numerous federal Liberal scandals, and this bill was an essential piece of much-needed reform. In part, this law banned former ministers, their aides, and senior public servants from lobbying immediately after their employment ceased.
I hoped that under the new UCP government, similar changes would be coming to Alberta and that this review of the Lobbyist Act would not be taken lightly. In that spirit, I put forward more than a dozen resolutions to the Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future. Over half of these resolutions were explicitly designed to implement changes requested by Ethics Commissioner Marguerite Trussler during her public testimony to the Committee.
During the Committee’s review of the Lobbyists Act, it however became apparent that both the Government and Official Opposition would neglect to seize this opportunity, seemingly favouring continuing to seek partisan advantages over each other.
All but one of my thirteen resolutions was rejected. Only one resolution was even proposed by a member other than myself, which simply called for the stakeholder submissions to be provided to the Ministry of Justice.
Albertans want the powers of shadowy lobbying groups over our political process to be diminished. They also want a transparent system that ensures special interests do not have undue influence on political parties or the government. For this reason, I feel it is necessary to provide my own Minority Report with supplemental recommendations for amendments to the Lobbyist Act.
These changes are designed to improve transparency and to help to prevent special interests from exercising influence within our democracy that is denied to regular citizens.
Drew Barnes, Independent MLA