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HomeColumnsPolitical lobbying is not democratic

Political lobbying is not democratic

Recently elected Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre promises to be the anti-establishment, anti-corruption leader Canada needs, but how do we define corruption?

Politicians accepting bribes in exchange for more favourable policies is bad, corrupt even: an easy thing to agree on for most people but letting a group of consultants handle that money and dictate policy while calling them ‘lobbyists’… well, that’s just politics.

Lobbying is defined as any attempt by individuals or private interest groups to influence the decisions of government. The 2008 Lobbying Act regulates lobbying in Canada and attempts to create more transparency between the government, lobbyists and the general public.

Not all lobbyists are paying politicians to enact malicious or selfish polices. There are plenty of political advocacy organizations fighting for a cause they believe in, as opposed to corporate lobbyists looking to earn profit.

These organizations only represent a fraction of voters.

This is not just an issue of “special interests” or corrupt politicians. It’s inherently undemocratic when money or lobbyists impact policy more than working people.

That is not a democracy, it’s an oligarchy.

Populist leaders like Poilievre, often hide themselves behind a cloak of “realness,” masquerading as a “man of the people.” But Poilievre has had communications with over a dozen lobbying organizations over the past year, according to Lobby Canada. This includes the Canadian Real Estate Association, and Hut 8 Mining, a digital currency miner.

This is not to call out the leader of the opposition for hypocrisy: he’s not alone.

Over 8,000 individual lobbyists and over 3,000 organizations and corporations registered during the 2021-22 fiscal year per Lobby Canada. There were over 24,000 communications with designated public office holders (DPOH).

Are these public officials acting in the interest of their constituents or their donors?

The number of reporting errors and actual money involved with lobbyists are separate issues. Canada does a decent job at regulating “unethical” or illegal lobbying. The problem is in the principle. Allowing any kind of lobbying leads to public policy being shaped by mostly unelected groups of people.

After the federal government announced a $10-a-day child care program, Ontario was set to roll out their plan. However, after constant pressure from the Ontario Association of Independent Childcare Centres (OAICC), an organization that represents 300 for-profit daycare owners, the provincial government removed certain checks and balances to appease OAICC members that join the program.

Some people will say this ability to petition the government like this is part of a healthy democracy, but is it fair to call this a democratic process?

Lobbying plays a massive role in shaping public policy in Canada.

Over five and a half million people voted for the Liberal party in the last federal election. How many of them were voting for or even aware of Shell Canada being a part of climate policy, or Google dictating broadcast policy?

Voting is free, voting is easy. Lobbying is much more complicated. People vote with the expectation the person or party they elect will act in their interests.

To tell a voter the best way participate in democracy is to take time (and sometimes money) out of their day to join a lobbying organization is out of touch. Why vote a representative into office if you have to work to petition the government yourself?

You shouldn’t.

It’s time to say goodbye to political lobbying and bring true democracy to Canada.