Kevin Grandia's blog

How We Can Pop Ottawa's Lobby Bubble

“The lobbyist” and “the lobby” are terms we often hear in political discourse and in the media.

I don't know how many times I have listened to, or been involved in, a conversation around a hot-button issue that has ended in something like: “Well, it all doesn't really matter because the lobbyists will just end up getting what they want anyways.”

This floating, nondescript spectre of “The Lobbyist” has served the lobby industry well, because the last thing a lobbyist wants is to have their name public. Better to remain an unknowable entity than, as Donald Rumsfeld put it, be a “known-known.”

But once you realize a lobbyist is just another person out there in the world trying to make a paycheck, the abstract idea of lobbying becomes more understandable and relatable. 

It also becomes much more easy to keep in check.

Take for instance this lobbyist for TransCanada pipelines, Phil von Finckenstein of PVF Consulting

Beware the Lobby Bubble, Mr. Trudeau

In Ottawa there has always been a level of disconnect between the issues that really matter to Canadians and the issues that seem important to Canadian politicians working on Parliament Hill.  

In the United States this phenomenon is called “beltway politics” where the issues being debated by politicians within the boundaries of Highway 495, which forms a beltway around Washington, D.C., have relatively little importance to anybody outside the beltway.

Spend too long in the beltway and strange things can happen. For instance, a president can speak passionately on the issue of climate change, but hem and haw over whether to approve an oil pipeline that will lock in massive amounts of new greenhouse gas emissions. 

Nobody knows more about this inside political game than the lobbyists. Lobbyists are the people paid by corporations, and to a much lesser extent non-profit organizations, to ensure government policies and decisions by politicians are of the most benefit to those paying them. Lobbyists (at least the good ones) know that their most powerful strategy is to control the flow of information politicians receive on important issues. 

If you control the information, you control the questions that are raised and debated and ultimately you have good odds of controlling the final outcome.

Conservative Party Candidate Says Oil is Natural, Spills Just Absorbed by Land

Sabrina Zuniga, the Conservative party candidate running in the riding of Spadina-Fort York in Ontario, was caught on tape claiming that “oil is a natural substance… so spilling into the environment, the land will absorb it because that's what oil is.”

Zuniga's riding is in close proximity to the route of the Enbridge Line 9B pipeline, which may soon be carrying diluted bitumen from the Alberta oilsands through the Greater Toronto Area.

Canada Election 2015: Where do the Parties Stand on Climate Change?

Canada Federal Election Climate Change

With only a couple of weeks left in the Canadian federal election, voters are starting to ask fundamental questions about where the major parties stand on important issues like climate change. Canadians already rank climate and environment as a top issue both during and between election cycles. 

But with both the federal election on the horizon and international climate talks scheduled in Paris for late November, Canadians have a real opportunity for their votes to translate into substantial climate action on the global stage. 

Pressure is mounting for Canada to play a leadership role at these negotiations, with major trading partners like China and the United States already jointly announcing their emission reduction goals and commitments in advance of the talks.  

Conservative MP Cheryl Gallant Writes Over-the-Top Climate Change Rant in Local Paper

cheryl gallant climate change

This summer, alongside stories about the community fair and demolition derbies, the Ottawa Valley's Renfrew Mercury ran an advertorial “Report from Parliament” written by Conservative Member of Parliament Cheryl Gallant on the much heavier subject of climate change. 

While most governments have accepted that climate change is an urgent issue to be taken seriously, it appears Gallant is taking a much different tack, making exaggerated claims and employing a divide and conquer rhetoric clearly designed to score a few cheap political points.

Gallant writes in her June 2015 “report” that, “alarmist claims about 'man-made' global warming have cost the Ontario government tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs.”

Note the quotations Gallant uses on “man-made,” in an obvious bow to the global warming conspiracy theorists. 

Provinces Call Environment Minister Out on Climate Consultation Claim

While the office of Canada's Environment Minister is claiming it is consulting with the provinces on a long-term climate commitment, Quebec's Minister of Environment says he hasn't heard from anyone in more than three months. 

As part of preparations for a United Nation's climate leadership summit to be held later this year in Paris, the United States is set to submit its carbon emission commitment to the UN today.

And pressure is mounting against the Harper government as it tries to explain why it is failing to meet the same agreed deadline of March 31st to submit its own set of commitments.


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