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What is GR

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Presentation for political science course at UofT - 02.24.09

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  • Brief explanation of government relations – strategic communications consultant – niche audience = government
    3 types by law – fall under ‘consultant lobbyist’
    Preconceived ideas of what a lobbyist is/does/means – will review myths/realities
    Will use GR/PA – Public Affairs & Gvt Relations interchangeable – Lobbying is more a tactic of the profession than a profession itself, esp. in Canada
  • Ask for any examples of organization/business/industry not impacted by gvt somehow
  • Act that created the Lobbyist Registry
    Consultant lobbyists employed by business, trade, industry, professional and voluntary organizations, trade unions, labour organizations, chambers of commerce and boards of trade, coalitions and interest groups, and other provincial and state governments w/ regular lobbying professional on the payroll, but need contact information to request a meeting, air of legitimacy to ensure request is fulfilled.
    Consultant lobbyists subject to more stringent regulations for filing returns.
    After ten days of agreeing to lobby, the consultant required to file return with the Ontario registrar.
    Although any competent consultant will arrange meeting with many different politicians, staff and bureaucrats, in their aim to affect public policy change, they are only required to file one return if they can provide all of the future meetings’ details
  • In the 1996 Budget Speech, the Minister of Finance Ernie Eves announced that the Government would “establish procedures to require the registration of all persons and firms who lobby the Government.”
    Over two years later, in the fall of 1998, the Chair of Management Board of Cabinet, Chris Hodgson, introduced the Lobbyists Registration Act: “This government is committed to managing its business operations in an open, accountable and accessible manner...Lobbying is part of the democratic process, but the public has a right to have access to information about organizations and individuals that are seeking to influence government decision-making...A public record of paid lobbyists will ensure that the public interest is protected from undue influence.”
    Shortly after Hodgson’s speech, by January 15th, the Act was proclaimed and a registration system to monitor the government relations professionals of Ontario was at work.
  • The federal lobbyist registration system arose from an election promise, too. In 1985 Prime Ministerial candidate Brian Mulroney announced that, if elected, his Progressive Conservative government would monitor lobbyists’ activities.
    Shortly after his election, a discussion paper was released and a standing committee was established. By July of 1987, Bill C-82 was introduced in the Parliament, “An Act Respecting the Registration of Lobbyists.” It received proclamation in September of 1988. Within a relatively short period of time, the identification of a ‘lobbying problem’ was ‘solved’ with the adoption of an American-style registry system.
    To see a public good in a transparent lobbyist registry, one must believe that this information is ‘empowering.’ The more the public knows, the better, reasons the first group. This arose in discussion with a consultant lobbyist who openly questioned the merits of ‘transparency.’ “Overall, this system has the appearance – the optics – of being transparent. And I guess that’s all that matters.”
    “The Act recognizes that lobbying is a legitimate activity. It provides lobbyists with free and open access to government while safeguarding the integrity of public office holders and protecting them from undue influence. The lobbyists registration system provides the public, public office holders and lobbyists with the opportunity and means to know who is talking to whom in government about what.”
  • Surprisingly, the most interesting suggestion came from the Registrar herself, noticing that many nonprofit organizations and smaller groups contract consultant lobbyists to work on their behalf, often to secure government funds. This cyclical nature of government funding, receiving money for a yearly budget that has government relations fees as a line-item seems counter-intuitive. Morrison suggests instead, “...we need to make it easier for some of these smaller organizations to get what they need to begin with – the middleman in many cases is the government... An intake officer could help with funding and applications...”
    Unlike its neighbour to the South, Ontario does not have over one hundred years experience in regulating interest groups’ lobbying. Fortunately, the Ontario government has not completely abdicated any responsibility for monitoring lobbying, as did the Australian government, who eventually gave up in frustration. Conversely, the EU strictly restricts access to legislators’ buildings to lobbyists who have not registered with the EU lobbyist database. The most unexpected impact of the Ontario Registry’s online database is its self-promotional and self-referential use by lobbyists themselves. Overwhelmingly, lobbyists are using the system, checking the consistently updated information that traces competitors’ clients and contacts.
  • Transcript

    • 1. + What is Government Relations? February 24th , 2009 meghan@withoutayard.com
    • 2. + Why Government Relations? Sector not profoundly impacted by government policy & regulation? Often all 3 levels of government directly affecting org ’slight’ change (regs, fees, leg and process) = drastic effect Success = Manage relationships between government & stakeholders
    • 3. + Left to Right – Lobbying is Legitimate Those who do not know the plans of competitors cannot prepare alliances. Those who do not know the lay of the land cannot maneuver their forces. Those who do not use local guides cannot take advantage of the ground. Sun Tzu, The Art of War "Okay, you've convinced me. Now go out there and bring pressure on me." President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Business Delegation
    • 4. + 2 key reasons for GR counsel Government is complex Communication unlike other organizations multi-layered, large size/scope, differing interests & considerations
    • 5. + Complexity of Government (a.k.a. your Prof’s job ;)
    • 6. + Myths & Realities (a.k.a. what I *don’t* do)
    • 7. +Myths vs. Realities Myths:  Sell access/influence  Beyond the law  Unethical Realities  Influential … merits of a client’s ‘case’ determines success  Access… part of what we do  Strategic communications with a niche audience  Legislation governs all work defined as ‘lobbying’  Media observing, reviewing  Experience in government, political & bureaucratic – public service, social justice, aim to improve
    • 8. + Different models  Lawmakers lobbied directly  Law-firms dominate  Former lawyers/politicians core  High-profile scandals  HYBRID – Similar to Interest Groups  Competitors = law firms – regulatory ‘wiggle room’  Interest Groups’ access to gov’t = adequate, institutionalized, powerful  ‘lobbying’ more focused on bureaucracy  Campaigns benefit corralling public opinion around  Responsible Gvt  Public opinion - Grassroots  PR pros dominate  Corporate Responsibility
    • 9. + Landscape Public policy considerations competitive • Economic Crisis • Fed/Prov Relations • Political Considerations • Environmental Impetus Voices A-Plenty - Activists, associations, GR, media, labour, etc Lessons - Innovators in non profit/activist sector & campaigns’ use of digital media (08 US election campaign -‘tactics’) Experience - political, bureaucratic & private sector insight (‘strategy’)
    • 10. + What Is A Lobbyist?  Consultant lobbyists paid to lobby on behalf of a client (GR consultants, lawyers, accountants)  In-house lobbyists employed by companies that carry on commercial activities for financial gain  In-house lobbyists employed by non-commercial organizations (advocacy groups, industry, professional and charitable organizations)
    • 11. + Lobbying when/if…. Attempt to influence:  Development of any legislative proposal  Introduction, passage, defeat or amendment of bill or resolution  Making or amendment of any regulation  Development, amendment or termination of any policy  Decision about privatization or outsourcing  Grant, contribution or other financial benefit  Arrange meeting with public office holder
    • 12. + Ontario Lobbyist Registration Act Public declaration Fines for non-compliance In 10 years of Act in force, no charges levied and only one investigation One year restriction for designated government officials for lobbying their former department/jurisdiction Interpreted narrowly & latitude
    • 13. Who is Lobbying in Ontario? Lobbyist Type Number Clients Consultant 303 1484 In-House (P&P) 151 151 In-House (Organization) 939 211 TOTAL: 1393 1846 Lobbyist Registration Website: February 21, 2009
    • 14. Who is Lobbying Across Canada? Lobbyist Type Number Clients Consultant 844 2216 In-House (P&P) 1541 298 In-House (Organization) 2305 485 TOTAL: 4690 2999 Lobbyist Registration Website: February 21, 2009
    • 15. + Unique Canadian Context Interest Groups’ relationship with government • Financial & institutional support (vs. US philanthropy/donor) = less aggressive/fewer clients Power of Executive • Fewer ‘access points’ to effectively lobby (most decisions directed by PM/Premier) • Watts’ “executive-legislative fusion with responsible parliamentary cabinets” Legislative processes • Few/No free votes • Committee Process not transformational
    • 16. + Ponderables Interest Groups’ relationship with GR • Question efficacy of some groups expending time/energy/funds on securing funds from government – cost/benefit Power of promotion • Braggadocio-online – boasting about numerous clients/files/meetings – to what end? Worldwide context • EU strict restrictions – Building entry req’s registration • AUS gave up