Time to modernize and strengthen province’s lobbying law
With Service Nova Scotia investigating allegations that former Prime Minister Jean Chretien illegally lobbied Premier Stephen McNeil, it’s time for the McNeil government to modernize and strengthen Nova Scotia’s current lobbying law.
Cumberland North MLA and Progressive Conservative leadership candidate Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said that the first change that needs to happen is to create an independent authority to investigate complaints. Currently, an employee of Service Nova Scotia acts as lobbying registrar, but that person is not independent of government, nor can they impose penalties for failing to follow the law.
“To ensure public confidence and transparency, we need an independent ethics and lobbying commissioner to be responsible for the lobbyist registry, reporting and compliance,” said Smith-McCrossin. “The commissioner should be an office of the legislature, independent from government and accountable to Nova Scotians, instead of a public servant who ultimately reports through a cabinet minister.”
Nova Scotia’s Lobbyist Registration Act was passed by a former PC government in 2002. Aside from a few modest changes, it is essentially the same law.
The majority of Canadian provinces (including New Brunswick), as well as the federal government, have independent officers of the legislature responsible for lobbying reporting and oversight. The PC platform in the 2017 election called for the creation of an independent office of the Commissioner of Ethics and Conflict of Interest, which would be an officer of the House of Assembly. Smith-McCrossin believes that office should include oversight of lobbying.
“It’s time for Stephen McNeil to stop deflecting legitimate questions around transparency and just do the right thing - modernize and strengthen the province’s lobbying laws, starting with an independent watchdog.”
Smith-McCrossin acknowledges Service Nova Scotia Minister Geoff MacLellan’s commitment to review the law, but called on the Liberals to bring forward legislation in the fall of 2018.
“Let’s set a timetable for action.”