November 6, 2007
Committee tables reports following public consultation
Edmonton—The Legislative Assembly’s all-party Standing Committee on Government Services has concluded its public consultation process on Bill 1: Lobbyists Act and Bill 2: Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act, 2007, and today tabled in the House its reports on each Bill, outlining various recommendations including proposed amendments.
Bill 1: Lobbyists Act
This Bill provides for the establishment of a publicly accessible lobbyist registry containing information regarding paid lobbyists and their activities. It also prohibits lobbying while providing paid advice to government, on the same issue, at the same time. Further, it requires the publication of government payment information.
Following extensive public consultation and committee deliberations, the committee is recommending a number of important changes to the Bill.
Highlights of these recommendations include: a 100-hour threshold, meaning organization lobbyists who lobby less than this per year would not have to register and fines for violation of the Bill would be reduced by half. Additionally, amendments to the prohibition against lobbying and providing paid advice to government on the same issue, at the same time, would exempt those who are involved in multi-stakeholder committees, and would permit the Ethics Commissioner to grant an exemption from this prohibition when in the public interest to do so. The committee has also recommended the reduction of the initial review period for the bill from five years to two years.
“In addition to other restrictions on the application of the Act, the committee is recommending that school trustees and staff of school boards not be considered lobbyists.” explained Harvey Cenaiko, MLA for Calgary-Buffalo and Chair of the Standing Committee on Government Services. “We are further recommending, any organizational lobbyist, including not-for-profit organizations not be considered lobbyists if their activities amount to fewer than 100 hours annually.”
Attached is a flowchart that illustrates the way the Bill works and included information based on the recommendations being put forward.
Bill 2: Conflicts of Interest Amendment Act, 2007
Bill 2 amends the Conflicts of Interest Act to update the rules governing MLAs and to impose new cooling off rules on senior public officials and senior political staff when they leave the public service. This Committee debated whether this cooling off period should be lengthened from six months to one year, but in light of the extensive review of this issue by the 2006 all-party committee, this committee agreed to maintain the six-month period.
The reports on Bill 1 and Bill 2 are available on the Government Services Committee website at www.assembly.ab.ca/governmentservices
“It is important to make the distinction that both Bills 1 and 2 have received second reading, meaning that the principles of the bill have been agreed to,” explained Cenaiko. “This committee is recommending amendments following an extensive public consultation and in-depth deliberations.”
“It will be the decision of the Committee of the Whole as to whether or not these recommendations are accepted,” he added.
Once the Bill receives Royal Assent, the committee has recommended that an extensive information and education campaign be launched in order to help the public understand the intricacies of the Lobbyists Act.
The committee met for the first time on June 27 and since then has met an additional nine times, including two days of public hearings.
“We saw a lot of public interest, particularly in Bill 1: Lobbyists Act, through activity on the committee’s website.” said Cenaiko. “Bill 1 was downloaded over 4,000 times, and other statistics show that Albertans took a real interest in being involved in the process.”
The Standing Committee on Government Services is one of four policy field committees established by the Assembly this spring. Among other responsibilities these 11-Member committees must review and report on Bills referred to them by the Legislative Assembly.Bill 1 became the first Bill to be referred to a Policy Field Committee on May 29, 2007.