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Top Lobbied Ministers 2013: Ritz, followed by Moore, Fast

Trade discussions, telecom lobbying led busy year, while communications with environment minister dropped

News | MARK BURGESS, PETER MAZEREEUW
Published: Monday, 01/27/2014 5:57 am EST
Last Updated: Monday, 01/27/2014 4:48 pm EST

Canada’s Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was the most-lobbied cabinet minister for the second year running, meeting with several agricultural groups for a total of 103 communications in 2013, while lobbying of the environment minister dropped off significantly in the second half of the year, according to the federal lobbyists registry.

A collaborative analysis of reports filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying’s online registry, by The Hill Times and The Lobby Monitor, shows Ritz led his cabinet colleagues in stakeholder outreach last year, followed by Industry Minister James Moore, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Foremost among the interest groups Ritz communicated with were the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), which reported 14 communications with the minister last year, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (nine communications) and the Canola Council of Canada (eight). 

Of the 103 communications with Ritz, 44 dealt with “international trade,” the reports said, which should come as no surprise as the minister was the point man for agricultural industries seeking either expanded access or protection in trade deals.

“Obviously the CETA [the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement] deal has ramped up the frequency of discussions with his [Ritz’s] department and himself, personally,” DFC president Wally Smith said in an interview. “Same goes for Ed Fast.” 

The Dairy Farmers were in “close conversation” with Ritz throughout the negotiations and continue to be as the final details of the deal, which was agreed to in principle in October, are negotiated in Brussels, Smith said. The DFC is still working to alter what Smith called an “excessive gift” to the Europeans regarding access to Canada’s cheese market.

With agricultural issues so prominent in negotiations for both the CETA and Trans Pacific Partnership trade deals, Ritz has stayed on top of the file, Smith said.

“He certainly, in our conversations when we’re discussing it with him, he is very, very informed,” Smith said. “He knows the details and we’re very impressed with his level of knowledge. He must be, from my perspective, engaged significantly to be able to have that level of debate with us around the trade issues.”

Ritz was involved with more than just international trade issues. A look at his travel schedule for last week alone provides a good picture of why he’s the most-lobbied minister: Between Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 he went from providing funding for a water buffalo milk producer in Québec City, to a roundtable in Winnipeg with grain producers and railways addressing a grain backlog, to an investment for the Prairie Oat Growers Association in Brandon, to a speech at the Calgary Chamber of Commerce.

In the first half of 2013, Ritz was involved with Bill C-52, the Fair Rail Freight Service Act, passed in June, which gave shippers, including agricultural producers, the right to service agreements with railways and created a dispute arbitration process. 

He has also been the government’s lead on a dispute with the United States over its country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat, which requires producers and processors to identify where cattle and pigs are born and slaughtered. Canadian industry and the federal government consider the policy discriminatory. The World Trade Organization announced last week it would hold more public hearings on the dispute to look at amended U.S. legislation Feb. 18-19 in Geneva, Switzerland.

In October, the government announced it was moving the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to fall under the health minister’s mandate, rather than the agriculture minister’s. Observers attributed the move to concerns raised during the 2012 XL Foods recall about Agriculture Canada’s ability to manage food safety as well as industry and consumer interests. The NDP called the move a demotion for Ritz. 

But the minister's influence within the federal cabinet increased in July when he became a member of the powerful Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning in the cabinet shuffle.

Ritz said in a written statement to The Hill Times that agriculture is the third-largest contributor to Canada’s GDP and that agri-food is the country’s largest manufacturing sector. 

“As minister, I meet regularly with forward thinking groups to discuss how to advance Canada’s diverse agriculture industry by creating opportunities at home and abroad,” he stated. 

James Moore, the second most-lobbied minister last year, inherited both a new portfolio and the interest of stakeholders in the summer cabinet shuffle. The former heritage minister who was lobbied 28 times in 2012 saw that number shoot up to 94 communications in 2013—76 of them coming after he became Industry minister.

Moore took over from Christian Paradis just as the "big three" wireless companies were beginning a summer public relations and lobbying blitz to change the rules for the 700 MHz spectrum auction, which they said gave an unfair advantage to big foreign competitors like Verizon Communications. Moore took meetings with most of the wireless companies after two weeks on the job, and took nine phone calls from Telus employees in one day in August, The Lobby Monitor reported at the time. 

The industry minister is always a target for stakeholders and “industry” is a mainstay among the top-lobbied subjects listed in the federal Lobbyists Registry. Paradis was lobbied 79 times in 2012, and was listed in 37 reports in 2013 before he was shuffled to the International Development portfolio.

While Moore communicated with various stakeholders related to his role at Heritage before the shuffle, he was also seen as an important regional player in B.C. as the government’s senior minister in the province, with B.C. firms and those with interests there, including MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Kinder Morgan and the University of British Columbia, reporting contact with him. He was also already a member of the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning.

Among the least-lobbied Cabinet members was Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, who moved into that portfolio from Health in the July shuffle. The environment has not been a quiet file for lobbyists—84 communications were reported with Aglukkaq’s predecessor, Peter Kent, in 2012, and he communicated 27 times with stakeholders in the first half of 2013 before being shuffled out in July. There were 1,395 communications on the subject of “environment” reported in 2013.

Only three of these were with Aglukkaq as environment minister: environmental groups Nature Canada and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, who—as part of the Green Budget Coalition—also contacted several other public office holders the same November day, and with Ducks Unlimited Canada in October.

Kent, who had been working on the government’s overdue greenhouse gas regulations for the oil and gas sector, met with a number of oil companies and industry associations, as well as environmental groups and mining companies, in the first half of 2013. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said in a year-end interview with Global News in December that the regulations need to be done “in concert” with the United States over the next couple of years.

Aglukkaq was involved in seven communications as health minister before the shuffle, all with organizations related to that file. That number is also much lower than the level of engagement demonstrated by her successor, Rona Ambrose, who was contacted 36 times after moving to Health in July.

Spokeswoman Jennifer Kennedy said Aglukkaq meets with a variety of stakeholders related to her portfolios—she’s also minister for the Arctic Council and for the Northern Economic Development Agency—who aren’t required to register under the federal Lobbying Act, including a meeting last week with 20 members of the Hunting and Angling Advisory Panel.

Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson had the fewest communications among Cabinet ministers last year, with four. Three of them came while he was justice minister and only one in the Defence portfolio. 

Prime Minister Harper found time for 23 registered communications last year, despite time spent helping to close a trade deal with Europe, shuffling his Cabinet, dodging scandal in the Senate and PMO, and quelling backbench revolt.

He was contacted by organizations including the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Vancouver Shipyards Co.—which signed an umbrella agreement in 2011 to build non-combat vessels for the military—the Canola Council of Canada, Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, and twice by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Surprisingly, autoworker union CAW Canada (now Unifor) communicated with Harper four times last year, more than any other organization. A March meeting covered issues including jobs, training, and Conservative backbench MP Russ Hiebert’s Union Financial Disclosure Bill, C-377, former CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a phone interview.

Harper was “very cordial and very professional,” during his meeting with Lewenza in March, Lewenza said in a phone interview. 

“I was quite surprised, I expected a stern, uncomfortable, direct prime minister. That’s the way we perceive him. But he was very comfortable, very open, and very accommodating,” and didn’t put a time limit on the meeting, Lewenza said, adding he was nonetheless dissatisfied with the outcome of the meeting and the government’s continued attacks on unions. 

Regarding the Union Financial Disclosure Bill, Harper “did say that there’s bigger priorities than the attacks on the labour movement like bill C-377. He’s seeing that not as a priority to the government, but…as an opportunity for MPs to speak on issues outside of government policy,” Lewenza said.

Then-PMO spokesman Andrew MacDougall said in a June press release the government supported the bill.

A note on methodology: The Hill Times and The Lobby Monitor searched all the federal cabinet ministers in the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying’s online registry between Jan. 20 and Jan. 22. The communication reports for December, which allow for all of 2013 to be reviewed, were due Jan. 15. However, some reports can be submitted late. If this happens, the number of communications could rise in some cases.

The Lobby Monitor and The Hill Times are owned by Hill Times Publishing IncFor exclusive coverage of federal politics and the federal government, visit www.hilltimes.com

mburgess@hilltimes.com | peter@lobbymonitor.ca 

 

Top lobbied, in brief

Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture
Number of communications: 103
Key stakeholders: Dairy Farmers of Canada, Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canola Council of Canada

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz was the most-lobbied minister in the federal government in 2013, communicating with stakeholders 103 times. Foremost among those were the Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), which reported 14 communications with the minister last year, the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (nine communications with Ritz) and the Canola Council of Canada (eight communications). Of the 103 communications, 44 dealt with “international trade,” the reports said, as the minister was the point man for agricultural industries seeking either expanded access or protection in trade deals, especially the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement agreed to in principle in October.

Ritz was involved with legislation giving shippers the right to service agreements with railways and he’s also been the government’s point man in a dispute with the United States over its country of origin labelling (COOL) for meat, which requires producers and processors to identify where cattle and pigs are born and slaughtered.

Ritz became a member of the powerful Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning in July.

 

James Moore, Minister of Industry
Number of communications: 94 
Key stakeholders: Telus, Bell, Kinder Morgan

James Moore inherited both a new portfolio and the interest of stakeholders in the summer cabinet shuffle, with 76 of his communications coming after he became industry minister.

Moore took over just as the "big three" wireless companies were beginning a summer public relations and lobbying blitz, with calls to change the rules for the 700 MHz spectrum auction. While Moore communicated with various stakeholders related to his role at Heritage before the shuffle, he was also seen as an important regional player in B.C. as the government’s senior minister in the province, with B.C. firms and those with interests there, including MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, Kinder Morgan and the University of British Columbia, contacting him. He is also already a member of the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning.

 

Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade
Number of communications: 76 
Key stakeholders: Chicken Farmers of Canada, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Dairy Farmers of Canada

Ed Fast remains among the top five most-lobbied ministers after another year in which the Conservative government pushed its international trade agenda, with the fruits of those labours being celebrated in Brussels last October.

Fast communicated with the wide range of interest groups and companies one would expect from the minister responsible for such a wide-ranging deal: agricultural associations, automakers, manufacturers and exporters, extractive firms and business associations. His calendar didn’t get any quieter once the CETA was agreed to in principle: 30 of Fast’s communications came after the deal’s announcement on Oct. 18. While he maintained the same cabinet portfolio in the summer shuffle, Fast was added to the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning.

 

Jim Flaherty, Minister of Finance
Number of communications: 76
Key stakeholders: Bombardier, IAMGold Corporation

Flaherty was contacted by several of Canada’s largest banks, as well as companies and organizations from the insurance, finance and mortgage industries last year. However, as his department put together the budget, fielded a merchant campaign on credit card fees and worked to establish a common securities regulator, he allowed policy director Adam Chambers and adviser Patrick Mercier to handle many of the relevant stakeholder meetings, the lobbyists registry shows. Flaherty serves as vice-chair of the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning and helps to shape broader government policy, and he met with a range of stakeholders outside the financial and banking sectors, including three communications with Bombardier, two with mining company IAMGold, General Motors of Canada, General Electric, and the AFL-CIO union, and several with universities. Christopher Smillie, senior government relations adviser at AFL-CIO Canada, said Flaherty is one of the more approachable ministers.

“He’s very business-like, he certainly looks at issues from a national perspective,” Smillie said in an interview.

 

Joe Oliver, Minister of Natural Resources
Number of communications: 69
Key stakeholders: Kinder Morgan Canada, TransCanada Corporation

Oliver was contacted 69 times in 2013 and, unsurprisingly, natural resource companies represented the bulk of those communications. Pipeline companies Kinder Morgan Canada, TransCanada Corporation, and Enbridge accounted for 12 communications combined. Proposals by those companies to construct pipelines—including Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain, TransCanada’s Keystone XL and Energy East, and Enbridge’s Northern Gateway and Line 9—and the noisy opposition to them in Canada and abroad, occupied much of Oliver’s time again last year, and likely will this year as well.

Oil and gas companies accounted for 15 communications with Oliver, and mining companies seven, and he also communicated with several associations. B.C.’s Haisla First Nation, which has agreed to allow the construction of a liquefied natural gas pipeline on its territory on the Douglas Channel, contacted him twice, as did six environmental groups over a two-day span in November. 

Other politically sensitive proposals, including Taseko Mines Limited’s New Prosperity project and several related to the export of liquefied natural gas from the B.C. coast, also kept Oliver busy last year.

 

Kelly Leitch, Minister of Labour and Status of Women
Number of communications: 66
Key stakeholders: Vancouver Shipyards Co., Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation

Leitch got a major promotion in the summer cabinet shuffle, one of several relatively young MPs brought into the ministry as part of what pundits called an attempt to give the government a facelift for the 2015 election. She inherited the portfolio during a relative calm in the stormy relationship between the federal government and labour unions, and used the opportunity to publicly tout the importance of improving workplace mental health, closing the “skills gap” in labour, and work on her status of women portfolio. Leitch communicated three times with the Fruit and Vegetable Dispute Resolution Corporation on the subject of “agriculture” and three times with Vancouver Shipyards Co. on labour issues. She also had more than 30 communications before the July shuffle while serving as a parliamentary secretary to the labour and human resources ministers.

 

Jason Kenney, Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism
Number of communications: 62
Key stakeholders: Canadian Construction Association, Petroleum Services Association of Canada, Canadian Federation of Independent Business 

Kenney was handed one of the government’s most important and delicate portfolios when he was made employment minister, as the government has repeatedly pointed to fixing the “skills gap” or purported employment imbalance as one of its priorities. He has not yet been able to get the provinces onboard with the Canada Job Grant, one of the government’s headline solutions for doing so. Kenney, who sits on the cabinet’s priorities and planning and operations committees, was also tasked last year with cracking down on abuse of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, one of the private sector’s favourite ways of filling vacancies created by that gap. He communicated twice with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business last year and twice with the Canadian Construction Association after the July shuffle. He also communicated with oil and gas industry lobbyists numerous times before and after the shuffle, including the Petroleum Services Association of Canada four times, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers twice, Suncor Energy twice, and with four other companies.

 

Lisa Raitt, Minister of Transport
Number of communications: 61
Key stakeholders: Canadian National Railway, Railway Association of Canada, Teamsters Canada

Lisa Raitt moved from her position as labour minister, which already involved a significant amount of lobbying, to the transport file only a week after the Lac-Mégantic tragedy made railway safety a top issue for Canadians, the government, and all the companies involved. Of the 61 communications reported with her in 2013, 39 came in her new portfolio. In fact, Raitt was probably even busier than this as one of the key players in the rail safety file, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which has met with her on several occasions, doesn’t have to report meetings involving representatives from municipal governments. 

Raitt communicated several times with the Canadian National Railway, Canadian Pacific Railway and the association that represents them, as well as with an association that ships dangerous goods and a union concerned with rail safety. Raitt’s meetings since July reflect the diversity of her stakeholders at Transport, including airlines, airport authorities, shipyards and ship owners.

 

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health
Number of communications: 59
Key stakeholders: Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, Canadian Medical Association, Canada’s Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies

A month after moving to the Health portfolio from Public Works, Rona Ambrose addressed the Canadian Medical Association’s annual convention, telling the audience she would have “an open mind and an open door” for health-care stakeholders. The speech was well received by health-care advocates and Ambrose backed it up by spending the day at the event, talking to members and meeting with the association’s leadership. 

Thirty-six of the reported communications with Ambrose came after she moved to Health. Those include pharmaceutical companies, associations for health food, specialty products and cosmetics, associations of health-care professionals, and charities for diseases. But Ambrose’s influence extends beyond her file. She’s also communicated with oil companies Cenovus and Shell since the cabinet shuffle, and was contacted several times by others in that sector in the first half of 2013. She got a seat on the Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning in July, and also became chair of the Cabinet Committee on Social Affairs.

 

Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency For Southern Ontario)
Number of communications: 54
Key stakeholders: Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Auto 21 Inc., Blackberry 

Goodyear’s role at the head of FedDev Ontario makes him the southern Ontario manufacturing industry’s lifeline to the government, and the government’s ambassador to a huge employer in a region that includes a third of Canada’s population. It’s no surprise then that Goodyear hit above his weight in cabinet last year, communicating with stakeholders 54 times, including seven with Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, and several with auto industry companies and associations. He also communicated frequently with universities, and twice with Polytechnics Canada. 

 

Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Number of communications: 23
Key stakeholders: CAW Canada, Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters

Canada’s Prime Minister found time for 23 registered communications last year, despite time spent helping to close a trade deal with Europe, shuffling his cabinet, dodging scandal in the Senate and PMO, and quelling backbench revolt.

He was contacted by organizations including the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, the Vancouver Shipyards Co.—which signed an umbrella agreement in 2011 to build non-combat vessels for the military—the Canola Council of Canada, the Fédération des producteurs de lait du Québec, and twice by the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. Surprisingly, autoworkers union CAW Canada (now Unifor) communicated with Harper four times last year, more than any other organization. A March meeting covered issues including jobs, training, and Conservative backbench MP Russ Hiebert’s Union Financial Disclosure Bill, C-377, former CAW president Ken Lewenza said in a phone interview.

—Compiled by Mark Burgess and Peter Mazereeuw

 

The cabinet: Where they rank 

Gerry Ritz
Minister of Agriculture
Number of communications: 103

James Moore
Minister of Industry
Number of communications: 94 

Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
Number of communications: 76 

Jim Flaherty
Minister of Finance
Number of communications: 76

Joe Oliver
Minister of Natural Resources
Number of communications: 69

Kelly Leitch
Minister of Labour and Status of Women
Number of communications: 66

Jason Kenney
Minister of Employment and Social Development and Multiculturalism
Number of communications: 62

Lisa Raitt
Minister of Transport
Number of communications: 61

Rona Ambrose
Minister of Health
Number of communications: 59

Gary Goodyear
Minister of State (Federal Economic Development Agency For Southern Ontario)
Number of communications: 54

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie
Number of communications: 52

John Baird
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Number of communications: 49

Tony Clement
President of the Treasury Board
Number of communications: 44

Michelle Rempel
Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification) 
Number of communications: 40 

Chris Alexander
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
Number of communications: 37

Bal Gosal
Minister of State (Sport)
Number of communications: 37

Shelly Glover
Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages
Number of communications: 34

Diane Finley
Minister of Public Works and Government Services
Number of communications: 33

Greg Rickford
Minister of State (Science and Technology, Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario)
Number of communications: 32

Maxime Bernier
Minister of State (small business and tourism, agriculture) 
Number of communications: 32

Kerry-Lynne Findlay
Minister of National Revenue
Number of communications: 32

Denis Lebel
Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs
Number of communications: 31

Gail Shea
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Number of communications: 29

Julian Fantino
Minister of Veterans Affairs
Number of communications: 28

Rob Moore
Minister of State (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency)
Number of communications: 28

Lynne Yelich
Minister of State (foreign affairs and consular)
Number of communications: 27

Stephen Harper
Prime Minister
Number of communications: 23

Steven Blaney
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Number of communications: 23

Peter MacKay
Minister of Justice
Number of communications: 22

John Duncan
Minister of State and Chief Government Whip
Number of communications: 22

Kevin Sorenson
Minister of State (Finance)
Number of communications: 22

Pierre Poilievre
Minister of State (Democratic Reform)
Number of communications: 22

Candice Bergen 
Minister of State (Social Development)
Number of communications: 22

Peter Van Loan
Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Number of communications: 20

Bernard Valcourt
Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development
Number of communications: 13

Alice Wong
Minister of State (seniors)
Number of communications: 10

Tim Uppal
Minister of State (multiculturalism)
Number of communications: 8

Rob Nicholson
Minister of National Defence
Number of communications: 4

news@lobbymonitor.ca

  
                    
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