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Demystifying the economy | What is the Registry of Lobbyists?



Every Saturday, one of our journalists answers, in the company of experts, one of your questions on the economy, finances, markets, etc.

“We often hear about the Registry of Lobbyists in the Business section. Recently in one of your articles, it was indicated that Ford had to update its registration in the register to take steps with various ministries in Quebec. What is the Registry of Lobbyists? Is it a kind of private club for companies? What is it used for ? »
—Luc Jeanson

The Registry of Lobbyists is the directory of people who try to influence ministers, MNAs, civil servants or councillors, both at the Quebec and municipal levels.

To be in good standing with the law, all people who make representations to the public authorities to obtain something must register there. This includes professional lobbyists who take corporate contracts to influence the government, but also corporate executives and employees who plead their case directly with elected officials or civil servants.

“It allows citizens and the media to know who is trying to influence a decision by a public institution,” summarizes Jean-François Routhier, Lobbying Commissioner since 2017.

The Registry is under the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act. “It’s an overturned freedom of information law,” said Ms.e Routhier. In other words, it is the person carrying out lobbying activities who must disclose their activity and their objectives themselves, in a public, accessible and free register. In short, to find out if a company is trying to influence the government or a municipality, and for what purpose, there is no need to embark on a complicated process.

If the company meets its obligations, everything is already offered online.

There Law, then the Register, stemmed from a scandal that struck Bernard Landry’s PQ government in 2002. “We realized that we were monetizing access to the Prime Minister’s Office by forcing people to go through a of lobbyists and, of course, that caused a scandal,” explains the commissioner. The firm in question, Oxygène 9, belonged to a friend of Minister Gilles Baril.

To clean up, the government then piloted a bill that would put the register in place.

“Lobbying is not a sin. It is legitimate, just as it is legitimate to know the mandate of these people, their remuneration, their clients, ”declared then the Minister of Justice Paul Bégin, according to an article by colleague Denis Lessard at the time.

Quebec then modeled its new system on the Register of federal lobbyists, already in place since 1989 and online since 1997. Canvassers who wish to influence an elected official or an Ottawa official must register in this other system.

To return to the Quebec register, after more than 20 years of existence, it has just had a facelift. Renamed “Carrefour Lobby Québec”, the site should in principle allow easier research.

However, the beginnings of the new registry proved difficult in this regard. “The search engine at the beginning was really ugly”, agrees Commissioner Routhier himself.

Since the launch of the new site, search fields have been added and the functions will be further improved in the coming weeks, he promises.

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