Follow the Money: It’s Time to Limit Cash-for-Access Government

Money buys influence.  It’s a common refrain in politics.  The cash-for-access fundraising issue that has dogged Trudeau is an example of this, but the truth is ALL parties are tainted by it to various degrees.  Aside from fundraisers, the whole industry of lobbying is a form institutionalized cash-for-access government. Want to know who influences your government?  Check out the lobbyists.

Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence the actions, policies, or decisions of officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.

In public, politicians say that lobbying doesn’t overly influence government policy, but why would companies and groups spend millions of dollars each year on lobbyists? The answer is that it’s the cost of doing business with government and it’s a pretty good return on investment. Further, many lobbyists are former politicians or political assistants so the revolving door of public servant to private lobbyist is really about paying for access to government through people who have inside knowledge.

Here are a couple of videos that further illustrate this issue.  The first is a promotional video for one of the biggest lobby firms in Canada and the second illustrates the harm they can do:

Who Lobbies Canada’s Government

To get a picture of who lobbies government, a look at records from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada is quite revealing. Going back to 2008, here are the 100 most active registered lobbyists in Ottawa:

Lobby Group Interactions with Government
Alliance of Manufacturers & Exporters Canada (CME) 1108
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers 1005
The Canadian National Railway Company 974
CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION 951
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) 949
GENERAL MOTORS OF CANADA COMPANY 813
Universities Canada 773
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) 772
FEDERATION OF CANADIAN MUNICIPALITIES 765
Canadian Bankers Association 732
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs 683
Chicken Farmers of Canada 650
CANADIAN CATTLEMENS’ ASSOCIATION 630
Dairy Farmers of Canada 627
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 612
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society 572
Canadian Chamber of Commerce 564
TELUS CORPORATION 545
Forest Products Association of Canada 540
Innovative Medicines Canada 539
Canadian Gas Association 522
Canadian Council of Chief Executives 511
Suncor Energy Inc. 505
University of Victoria 498
TransCanada Corporation 496
FORD MOTOR COMPANY OF CANADA, LTD. 491
Canadian Federation of Agriculture 457
University of Alberta 441
Canadian Steel Producers Association 435
Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada 434
Tourism Industry Association of Canada 433
FOOD AND CONSUMER PRODUCTS OF CANADA 414
Greater Toronto Airports Authority 403
Rick Hansen Foundation 400
Polytechnics Canada 397
Bombardier Inc. 396
CANADIAN NURSES ASSOCIATION/ASSOCIATION DES INFIRMIERES ET INFIRMIERS DU CANADA(CNA) 393
Shaw Communications 384
Fertilizer Canada 383
Canadian Federation of Students 382
Canola Council of Canada 370
University of Calgary 367
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association 357
Imperial Oil Limited 357
University of Saskatchewan 350
Canadian Labour Congress 336
Retail Council of Canada 335
CANADIAN ELECTRICITY ASSOCIATION 334
Enbridge Inc. 334
Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) 329
WORLD VISION CANADA 328
ENCANA CORPORATION 326
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations 325
Air Canada 315
Canadian Fuels Association 304
Genome Canada 303
TEAMSTERS CANADA 303
Canadian Meat Council 291
University of Manitoba 291
CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY 290
Grain Growers of Canada 290
Information Technology Association of Canada 290
Canadian Council for International Co-operation 286
Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada 283
Rogers Communications Inc. 283
CANADIAN URBAN TRANSIT ASSOCIATION 282
PEMBINA INSTITUTE 282
RESULTS Canada 282
BlackBerry Limited 280
Restaurants Canada 280
Irving Shipbuilding Inc. 276
NATURE CANADA 275
BCE Inc. 271
ROYAL BANK OF CANADA 270
Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers’ Association 268
Mitacs Inc. 268
Shell Canada Limited 267
Chemistry Industry Association of Canada 266
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada 265
Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association (CGPA) 262
Vale Canada Limited 262
World Wildlife Fund Canada 261
BIOTECanada 259
McMaster University 259
Dairy Farmers of Ontario 258
Xplornet Communications Inc. 254
Teck Resources Limited 253
Credit Union Central of Canada 252
Canadian Dental Association 246
Renewable Industries Canada 243
Canadian Beverage Association 242
Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities 240
Westcoast Energy Inc., dba Spectra Energy Transmission 234
CAMECO CORPORATION 233
Scotiabank 232
CANADIAN CONSUMER SPECIALTY PRODUCTS ASSOCIATION 228
Colleges and Institutes Canada 227
UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO 225
CANADIAN HEALTH FOOD ASSOCIATION 223
SNC-Lavalin Inc. 222

A look at the top lobbyists closely aligns with the priorities of governments (both Liberal and Conservative) over the last 8 years. Promoters of trade deals, Alliance of Manufacturers & Exporters Canada, tops the list followed by pipeline and oil sands advocates, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. In general, resource extraction was high on the list with The Mining Association of Canada coming in the top ten.  You have financial services (Canadian Bankers Association), cities (Federation of Canadin Municipalities) and health services (Canadian Medical Association).  You even had the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) coming in at #11 on the list of the most active lobbyists. Records indicate that the CIJA lobbies on a number of issues, but part of their interactions are on international relations and the Israel-Palestine conflict in particular. Further, whereas all the other top lobbyists tend to represent economic or institutional sectors of Canadian society, the CIJA appears to be the ONLY top 100 lobby group the explicitly advocates for the interests of another country.

Lobbying Trudeau

The results of the lobby records since 2008 might not be surprising given that the Harper government was in power for most of that time.  So, what are the results if we look at record since the Trudeau government was sworn into office? Below is a table of the top 50 since the Trudeau government took office.

Lobby Group Interactions with Government
The Mining Association of Canada (MAC) 237
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada 231
Alliance of Manufacturers & Exporters Canada (CME) 204
The Canadian National Railway Company 180
Canadian Federation of Students 178
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs 175
University of Alberta 175
Canadian Alliance of Student Associations 170
Forest Products Association of Canada 154
Canadian Medical Association 148
CANADIAN CATTLEMENS’ ASSOCIATION 143
Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) 143
Universities Canada 136
FEDERATION OF CANADIAN MUNICIPALITIES 134
Canadian Beverage Association 132
Bombardier Inc. 129
Unifor 122
Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society 120
University of Calgary 119
Canadian Chamber of Commerce 116
AIR CANADA 114
Council of Canadian Innovators 113
International Boreal Conservation Campaign 112
Canadian Bankers Association 105
Canola Council of Canada 101
Dairy Farmers of Ontario 101
Suncor Energy Inc. 101
International Union of Operating Engineers 99
Shaw Communications 99
GENERAL MOTORS OF CANADA COMPANY 98
Canadian Council for International Co-operation 97
CANADIAN ELECTRICITY ASSOCIATION 96
Retail Council of Canada 96
Chicken Farmers of Canada 95
Polytechnics Canada 92
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation 91
CANADIAN CANCER SOCIETY 90
Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada 88
The National Benefit Authority 88
Information Technology Association of Canada 86
TELUS Corporation 86
Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers 85
Canadian Gas Association 85
CANADIAN NURSES ASSOCIATION/ASSOCIATION DES INFIRMIERES ET INFIRMIERS DU CANADA(CNA) 85
IMPERIAL TOBACCO CANADA LIMITED 85
Canadian Canola Growers Association 84
University of Victoria 82
Coast Capital Savings Credit Union 78
Enbridge Inc. 78
Innovative Medicines Canada 76

Surprisingly, given the change in the government, many of the top lobbyists tend to be the same.  Are they effective? Has Trudeau approved any pipelines? Signed any Free Trade agreements? How has Canada under Trudeau, voted at the United Nations on issues concerning Israel-Palestine?

You want to know who influences government? Look at the lobbyists.  Like the cash-for-access fundraisers, it’s time to limit cash-for-access government.