What Is A Lobbyist?

By Roy L Hales

There has been a lot of talk about lobbyists lately. Much of it centres around two Cortes residents who attend Strathcona Regional District regularly board meetings on a fairly regular basis. Are there others? What is a lobbyist?

According To The Registrar of Lobbyists

Are you a lobbyist in BC? – Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists of British Columbia

According to the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists of British Columbia, “Lobbyists are paid by their employers, or clients, to communicate with public office holders in an attempt to influence government decisions.”

Note the words “paid” and “employers or clients.”

Using this definition, there aren’t any known lobbyists on Cortes Island.

A Broader Definition of “Lobbying”

However English dictionaries use a broader definition:

Strathcona Regional District Board Meeting, Feb 28, 2019 – Roy L Hales photo

“If you lobby someone such as a member of a government or council, you try to persuade them that a particular law should be changed or that a particular thing should be done.”Collins Dictionary

“A group of people seeking to influence legislators on a particular issue. [example] ‘members of the anti-abortion lobby’” – Oxford Living Dictionaries

“the activity of trying to persuade someone in authority, usually an elected member of a government, to support laws or rules that give your organization or industry an advantage” – Cambridge Dictionary

Lobbying With The SRD

This is the definition Julian Ayers was using, when he recently referred to the group opposing a referendum on Cortes Island’s proposed Hall tax:

“In spite of the fact that a significant majority of Area B electors support moving ahead, the fundamentals of democratic process have been and are still being blocked by a small group of anti-taxers who have acted as if the referendum issues were Director Anderson’s initiatives and have circumvented our elected director and furthermore lobbied other directors off the public record.” 

It is not certain whether will be a referendum on the proposed hall tax this year. When Area D Director Brenda Leigh explained her reasons for voting to set aside the results of the recent referendum last November, she referred to emails from unidentified Cortes residents who had concerns about the tax. When I met Chair Michele Babchuk at Heriot Bay last month, she said there is no budget and Cortes will not have a referendum until 2020.

Now I am hearing rumours that the hall service referendum is going back onto the SRD agenda and the issue might be decided this year.  (TBD)

“Pro-Referendum” and “Anti-Tax” Lobbies

Some of the Cortes residents at the Feb 28 Meeting – Roy L Hales photo

We would appear to have an “pro-referendum” as well as an “anti-tax” lobby.

The biggest difference between the two in terms of how they operate, is the amount of, or lack of, transparency. Those in favour of moving forward with a referendum on the proposed hall tax have made no attempt to conceal their activities. 320 Cortes island residents, the vast majority of which are also undoubtedly voters, have now signed the Open Letter to Cortes Islanders. While the anti-tax lobby are secretly petitioning Regional Directors from other areas, supporters of the tax are making their emails part of the public record.

Termination Of Secret Lobbying

In their recent presentation to the board, Cec and Christine Robinson called for a termination of secret lobbying:

“We request that the SRD adopt a communications policy whereby:”

  • “All directors are required to use their SRD email address for SRD business;”
  • “Communications received by a director from the public which legally require anonymity will be marked as ‘confidential’, distributed to all of the Board, and entered into the public record with personal identification redacted.”

Top photo credit: A “lobbyist” gains the attention of a “democratic representative” in a role playing exercise – Photo by Mike Strasser, West Point Public Affairs via Flickr (CC BY SA, 2.0 License)

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