Thank you very much, Ms. Shepherd.
As Ms. Shepherd has indicated in her remarks, there are a lot of issues swirling around out there about the present lobbying legislation. It's the chair's opinion, and it's the chair's opinion only, that the act does cry out for substantial revision or substantial amendments.
This committee, members of the committee, and members of the public have made many complaints and overtures or interventions over the last number of years on the Lobbying Act. Some of the provisions Ms. Shepherd has alluded to, but there are others that this committee is going to have to look at very carefully when we do the study. I'll just list some of them, and this is not extensive or exclusive.
What constitutes lobbying? Is our definition satisfactory?
Is the five-year ban on all public office holders, MPs, and others reasonable and justifiable in today's society?
There have been discussions in some fora that designated public officers proactively record and disclose their contracts with lobbyists. Is this good public policy?
Ms. Shepherd has alluded to the 20% rule, or the significant part of duties. We see people go into positions of government relations but who do not have to record as lobbyists because in their own opinion they are not spending more than 20% lobbying federal public office holders. Is this good public policy? Of course Ms. Shepherd is recommending a substantial change to that.
Should the lobbying commissioner proactively oversee the employment and other activities of former public office holders? The lobbying industry, again as Ms. Shepherd has pointed out, has expressed many concerns about code rule 8. What exactly can they do to assist political parties and candidates for political office? Ms. Shepherd of course has indicated that the present rule is clear, although many in the lobbying industry indicate that it is not clear.
The whole issue of transparency has to be talked about, because we have a situation where there have been complaints filed years ago, and we're just not exactly sure where they stand in the queue.
One of the biggest problems I see is a substantial lack of enforcement of the Lobbying Act. The fact that in the past 22 years no one has ever been charged speaks volumes. It's my view that the present legislation is compromised by imposing a duty upon our peace officers and public prosecutors to enforce what I consider to be an administrative function. Of course over the last 22 years the peace officer community has not shown any appetite to get involved in any prosecution under this particular act.
The fact that the commissioner has no powers other than to report the matter to the House, does not have power to suspend or anything else, I think is a serious matter. And then of course if it is reported to the House, as it was in a couple of incidents, about a month ago, what exactly should or would the House do in that situation?
These are just a couple of my own examples of some of the issues this committee is going to have to deliberate on very carefully. I think it's an important role we are embarking upon. And as I said, we have our first and perhaps one of our more important witnesses, the commissioner herself.
Having said that, we're going to go to round one.
Seven minutes, Mr. Easter.