We are pleased to have received this post from Jane Moffat, an attorney in the government affairs practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge, who focuses on Canada-U.S. regulatory affairs.
Pay-to-play reforms are also emerging from our neighbors North of the border. Canada’s federal Minister of Finance recently ordered a review of the Government of Canada’s plan to take money from businesses in exchange for their participation in a consultation process about credit card and payment fees. Earlier this year (June 18, 2010), the Minister announced the establishment of the “Task Force for the Payments System Review” as part of the Budget 2010 commitment to review the safety, soundness, and efficiency of the payments system in Canada.
Criticism about companies paying-to-play has recently been directed at the current Conservative government because businesses are being asked to pay as much as $25,000-$45,000 to take part in the task force. Opposition parties and small businesses are complaining about being squeezed out of the public policy process. The Minister is expected to address the issue and it remains to be seen whether opposition parties will respond by endeavoring to enact pay-to-play legislative reforms.
Also of interest in the Canadian political law world is the reaction of organizations such as the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) and the Government Relations Institute of Canada (GRIC) to the federal lobbying Commissioner’s recent guidance on Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. Rule 8 of states that lobbyists “shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest by proposing or undertaking any action that would constitute an improper influence on a public office holder.” According to guidance given by the Commissioner in late 2009, a lobbyist could risk contravening Rule 8 by engaging in any type of political activity (such as by purchasing a ticket to a fundraiser). The Commissioner was forced to revisit and clarify that guidance on August 23, 2010 after the CBA issued a cautionary opinion respecting the constitutionality of Rule 8. Although the clarifications provide additional -- and debatably, more specific -- information about what the Commissioner deems a breach of Rule 8, further political and legal challenges are expected. The ambiguity certainly remains as to when a lobbyist’s political activities run afoul Rule 8. Equally uncertain is whether Rule 8 is constitutional under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It will be interesting to follow these pay-to-play issues in Canada.