What is "lobbying" and how does it get used in Canada to change government policy?

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I have heard a lot of talk about lobbying and how it is used to change laws, but when I look it up online most explanations sound like they are intended for lawyers (or are in regards to the USA and not Canada).

How does Lobbying work in Canada, and what can/does it be used for (examples)?

Please keep answers general as I am not very knowledgeable in the matters of law and its terminology. I am interested at the federal level however I am also curious if the same lobbying system is present at the provincial level.

My Research so far

Lobbying is something done by companies (Update looks like individuals and organisations can do this too in Canada). Also from the same document I found that some sort of payment is needed however it seems to be written in legalise. The goal of the company/individual is to change government policy somehow (I am unclear on this). From my reading (mostly wiki with some pages on government websites) I have guessed that it is like scheduling an appointment to talk to the various elected members of parliament? (Is any of this correct, am I off base?)

Canada

Also why I mentioned Canada is because in my efforts to learn this (before this post) I found that Canada has regulated lobbying by parliamentary bills. I am not totally sure what that means, but I guess it may restrict how these "meetings" happen, and who can be involved?

Gram

Posted 2015-07-16T19:00:47.410

Reputation: 315

2For the record, I didn't downvote because of a typo. I did because this doesn't seem to show any research effort at all, and I don't think that lobbying works differently in Canada than anywhere else (in a broad, fundamental way). – Geobits – 2015-07-17T14:51:25.347

Thank you for posting that, it helps me to as better questions in the future. I will update the question to include what I have learnt so it does not look like I am asking other to do research for me. – Gram – 2015-07-17T15:17:38.440

3Lobbying is not just done by companies. There are also citizen organizations which engage in lobbying activity, like environmental or consumer rights groups. – Philipp – 2015-07-19T02:28:04.363

3The payment which that document talks about is a payment a lobbyist receives from the organization they represent. A politician should neither pay nor be paid to talk to a lobbyist. The first would be a politician paying for a consulting service (which isn't too far-fetched, but such a service would be unbiased), the second would be outright bribery. – Philipp – 2015-07-19T03:15:14.407

I had updated my question to note that lobbying is not just companies before you comment, however, your comment was still helpful thank you. – Gram – 2015-07-20T16:53:20.670

Answers

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Roughly speaking, lobbying is when any non-politician tries to influence the opinion of politicians.

Let's say you would like your favorite forest to be declared a national park. What would you do? You could write a letter to the responsible politicians and ask them to do this. This is a form of lobbying. However, as a Joe Average, it is unlikely that they will listen to you.

But when a well-known environmental group, like Greenpeace or the World Wildlife Foundation, would ask for it, they might pay more attention. Such non-governmental organizations (NGOs) usually have established contacts with politicians to tell them their opinion about current events, and the politicians usually take concerns from such organizations seriously. First, because they know such organizations have experts on their pet issue who usually are aware of the full ramifications of their proposal, and second because NGOs represent not just a single voter, but the interests of all their members and often a much larger number of non-member sympathizers they would be able to mobilize against politicians who act against their interests. This allows such groups to engage in lobbying much more efficiently than private people could.

But a good(!) politician wouldn't base their decisions on the opinion of just a single organization. Before proposing a law, yet alone cast their vote, they would also want to listen to contrary viewpoints. In this example they will certainly want to listen to what the representative of the local industry think about this. Some might provide further arguments for it (like the tourism industry), others will be vehemently against it (like any polluting industry which would then need to shut down).

The idea of lobbying itself isn't inherently undemocratic. A politician should not just follow their gut instinct but should consider all the conflicting interests before making their decision. Meeting with people who represent these interests is a useful way to ensure that this happens.

However, the reason why lobbying has such a bad reputation, is because those lobbyists who represent businesses are usually far better funded than those who represent NGOs. While NGOs are often underfunded and rely on volunteers who work in their free-time, industry lobbyists can afford whole teams of full-time employees who do nothing all day except figuring out the best way to convince politicians to do exactly what their employers want. This often leads to a perceived over-representation of economic interests in the decision-making process of politicians.

Also, when lobbyists have access to lots of funding, lobbying can sometimes become dangerously close to bribery. For example when companies promise hefty donations to the parties of politicians in exchange for favorable decisions.

That's why there are frequently demands for legislation to make lobbying more transparent. By making it clearer which politician gets influenced by whom, the whole political process which leads to a decision becomes more visible to the public, and politicians are motivated to listen to contrary viewpoints to avoid accusations of being influenced by just a single organization.

Philipp

Posted 2015-07-16T19:00:47.410

Reputation: 55 858

2WOW, there is a whole lot more to lobbying then I had thought. Thank you for explaining it to me and providing some examples about how it works. Now that I understand the basics I also understand Geobits comment about how Canada's lobbying system not necessarily being that different. – Gram – 2015-07-19T05:25:36.060