Thursday, August 30, 2007

Proposed lobbyist act unwieldy, say non-profits

Proposed lobbyist act unwieldy, say non-profits:

"Two of Alberta's largest non-profit groups say they will fight a new act that would track government lobbying, calling it an administrative nightmare. Karen Lynch, a spokeswoman for Volunteer Alberta, said the rules will force non-profits to register every conversation they have with a politician."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Alberta Lobbyist act- asking questions

(We sent a brief question to ServiceAlberta regarding the lobbyist act. It took three tries to get a response)

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Thank you for visiting the Alberta Government feedback web site. Following is the response to your question prepared by Justice and Attorney General [JAG]

On 2007-08-16 09:27:00.0 you wrote:

my question regards the pending lobyist act legislation

Is there a difference under the proposed act between receiving funds for services (e.g. rural special needs transportation of an individual) and "paid advice"?

For example: We have 1-2 passengers where alberta treasury issues a cheque for the invoiced amount for transportation (typically 25% the actual cost of transportation -- we are subsidizing the province in these cases)

Our lobbying effort is roughly six letters a year. generally asking the provice on the status of the Uncondition Municipal Grant Program review -- a program that slashed provincial support for specialized transportation (handivan, DATS, etc) in 1994 and that has not been reviewed since 1994.

We would like to know how we will be affected by the new lobbyist legislation.

Justice and Attorney General responds as follows:

Thank you for your comments regarding Bill 1: Lobbyists Act.

In May 2006, an all-party committee reviewing the Conflict of Interest Act recommended the government establish a lobbyist registry. Following this recommendation, Premier Ed Stelmach introduced Bill 1 to demonstrate the Government of Alberta’s commitment to transparency and integrity.

The Bill will establish a lobbyist registry providing public access to information regarding organizations and interest groups seeking to influence government decision-makers. Lobbying government is a legitimate activity. It is important however, the public and public office holders know who is engaged in lobbying activities.

The Bill has three key features:

1. Creating a lobbyist registry.
The registry will be administered by the Ethics Commissioner to ensure independence from government. People who are paid to lobby government will be required to register as lobbyists.

2. Prohibition.
Under the Bill it will be an offence, punishable by a fine of up to $200,000 for a person to both lobby and provide paid advice to the government on the same matter at the same time. It is not an offence to both lobby the government and receive payment from government for providing services other than advice to government.

3. Creating an Index of Accounts Paid.
The Bill requires government to provide a publicly accessible list of accounts paid by government, allowing Albertans to see who is doing business with the Government of Alberta. It is anticipated this index will be published online and updated on a quarterly basis.

The Bill also recognizes there are basic communications that do not qualify as lobbying, such as discussions with a public office holder about whether a person qualifies for a program, or whether a law or policy applies to a person. Most forms of communication between an MLA and their constituents are not considered lobbying under the Bill. It is important to ensure that MLAs and other public officials maintain free and open dialogue with their constituents and other Albertans. The Bill is designed to strike the appropriate balance.

Alberta Justice has developed a guide to the Bill to facilitate understanding of it. It is located on Alberta Justice’s website: .

On May 29, 2007 Bill 1, the Lobbyists Act, was referred to the Standing Committee on Government Services. The Committee will review the Bill and report back to the Assembly. The Standing Committee on Government Services is an all-party policy field committee chaired by Harvey Cenaiko, MLA Calgary Buffalo. The Committee is seeking input from interested stakeholders. Information about its review process can be found on its website at www.assembly.ab.ca/governmentservices . The deadline for written submissions is August 24, 2007.

Albertans will be kept informed of progress on Bill 1 through the government website at www.gov.ab.ca . Additional information regarding Bill 1 will be posted to Alberta Justice’s website at www.justice.gov.ab.ca/initiatives/ .

Again, thank you for your comments.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Alberta lobbyist act and non-profit organizations

Short version:

As proposed, the new Alberta Lobbyist Act (bill 1) will require considerable extra demands on Alberta's voluntary sector as an intrinsic result of the collaborative nature of the sector.

One challenge will be the requirement to document communication with "public office holders." The provinces definition of "public office holder" is very, very broad. A simple inter-agency meeting may become the source of several reports because a school board trustee or a Community liaison of the Children's Services office attended a lunch-time meeting for share information.

Albertan's volunteering their time to Alberta on task-forces, committees or various board would also be considered public officials -- a family barbecue might require the executive director to document communication -- time that may be better spent addressing Alberta's neglected social infrastructure.

The Muttart Foundation is responding to the government's invitation to provide input on Bill 1 and is looking for organizations across Alberta to endorse their analysis/ submission.

For more info, try this link from the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations(CCVO).

http://www.calgarycvo.org/LobbyistAct.htm