OTTAWA -- As Parliament gears up for a winter spring session, the three Green Members of Parliament will track and expose the degree to which regulators and policy makers are captured by major corporations.
"While the SNC-Lavalin affair cast some light on the degree of corporate influence and access of this particular corporation, SNC-Lavalin is but one example of the problem of 'corporate capture,'" said Green parliamentary leader Elizabeth May.
"Regulators are increasingly deferential to the industry they regulate, sometimes with conflicts of interest built in to the regulatory mandate." Examples of regulators given a task to both regulate and promote industries include the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (tasked with both food safety and promotion of agri-business), the Atlantic Canada off-shore petroleum boards (tasked with promoting offshore oil and gas), as well as regulating and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans promotion and regulation of aquaculture.
At a press conference today, MPs Elizabeth May, Paul Manly and Jenica Atwin spoke of the Green Party's concern across a wide spectrum of industries and sectors.
"Clearly we would have had Pharmacare years ago if not for the clout of Big Pharma," added May. "One worrying example from south of the border was the US aviation regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration's willingness to allow Boeing to virtually self- regulate, while Canadian regulators followed the FAA lead instead of acting to ground the Boeing Max," said Paul Manly.
"We need to take a hard look at the role of lobbyists in our political system as well," said Jenica Atwin. "I think of the stop spraying movement in New Brunswick that has tabled a petition with over 35,000 signatures to end aerial spraying of glyphosate on New Brunswick forests. The people have spoken, yet their voices are not as loud as those of a handful of corporate lobbyists."
"There are very weak conflict of interest rules for Senators, so they can assist lobbyists in their efforts to influence government without violating any rules or facing any penalties," said Paul Manly.
At a conservatively estimated $300 million in annual revenues, the industry has increased in size 10 times in the past decade. In addition, the costs of corporate lobbying can be written off as a business expense. So taxpayers actually subsidize the undermining of the democratic process, to the tune of an estimated over $100 million a year." (sourced from democracywatch.ca)
Finally, none of the current ethics rules for public officials or lobbyists are effectively enforced for three main reasons:
- The Ethics Commissioner for Cabinet ministers and MPs does not have enough legal requirements and powers to ensure the Commissioner strictly and strongly enforces the rules;
- The watchdog for lobbyists (called the Registrar of Lobbyists) is completely controlled by a Cabinet minister and so lacks the independence to do the job effectively, and;
- So-called "whistleblowers" have no legal way to have their complaints investigated by an independent body and are also not protected in any way from retaliation. (sourced from democracywatch.ca)
Kevin Taft provides a Canadian perspective in his 2017 book, Oil's Deep State: How the petroleum industry undermines democracy and stops action on global warming - in Alberta, and in Ottawa. From Taft's introduction:
The reason governments have failed to respond to climate change by reducing carbon emissions is that the fossil fuel industry has worked very hard, both directly and indirectly, to oppose effective government responses. This book examines the capture of democratic institutions such as political parties, government bureaucracies, regulators, and universities, so that those institutions increasingly serve the interests not of democracy, science, or the public, but the interests of the fossil fuel industry, especially the oil industry.