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Canadian Legislative Lobbying: Need Help?

By Scott Proudfoot, Principal
May 2002

A good Canadian legislative lobbyist helps you hang in and hang on every step of the way

If your industry or group has an interest in a Parliamentary hearing, or the more ambitious goal of lobbying and hoping to influence the direction of a particular piece of legislation, then you have good reason to seek expert assistance.  The legislative process has particular characteristics that call for special lobbying skills and experience.

First, the process can be prolonged.  It can take years for a departmental legislative proposal to make it through the Cabinet system and the various legislative stages of House of Commons and the Senate before finally receiving Royal Assent. After this legislative marathon, a six-month to one-year process is consumed in the detailed preparation of the departmental regulations.  The legislative lobbyist requires persistence, patience, and experience to ensure your interests are put forward every step of the way.

Second, the process is arcane, subject to its own rules and culture. The way in which legislation develops and moves through the central agencies of government is not particularly transparent.  The House of Commons and Senate operate on the basis of unique norms and rules that in some instances go back centuries.   Your Canadian lobbyist has to understand the culture and know the rules.

Third, the legislative process has a very public face.  The process takes so long that any legitimate interest has the chance to organize public opposition against your position. You may have convinced government officials of the eminent good sense of your position but are you prepared for the give and take of public battle?  Do you have champions in the system and strong public supporters? Do you know who will oppose your interests?  Can you handle press inquiries and a vehement attack on your interests and your motives? Do you understand the Commons and Senate committees’ public hearing process?

Fourth, once draft legislation or a policy issue enters the Canadian Parliamentary agenda, it becomes, by definition, a political issue.  Political considerations drive a government’s agenda and the interests of individual Members of Parliament.  On any given issue, the political parties tend to line up for and against. This can make your lobbying group an ill-prepared contestant in someone else’s game show.

Here are some of the things you should expect a good Canadian legislative lobbyist to do for you:   

  • Creates a two-tracked strategy, one for the Canadian public service and one for Parliament;
  • Help you understand the detailed nuances of the relevant bureaucratic and Canadian political processes;
  • Identify possible supporters and opponents and, if necessary, pull together a coalition of interests;
  • Research your arguments with a particular focus on what government and parliament has already said and done on the issue;
  • Give objective, tough advice on the strengths and weaknesses of your position;
  • Suggest innovative solutions with some political and policy appeal;
  • Develop a bipartisan approach and coordinate meetings with officials, the Committee Chair, key Members of Parliament, and political staff;
  • Arrange for your organization to appear before a House or Senate Committee;
  • Draft letters, briefs, opening statements for Committee appearances and prepare Qs and As;
  • Ensure your material is properly translated and distributed to the Members, Senators, the Clerk, and key Parliamentary Researchers;
  • Attend Committee hearings to track supporters and opponent presentations and determine the biases and interests of individual committee members;
  • Ensure you are thoroughly prepared, help you craft your oral message and run you through rehearsals before a Parliamentary Committee appearance;
  • Coordinate the proper follow-up activities to any Committee appearance;
  • Prepare suggested wording and technical amendments for the clause by clause stage of legislation;
  • Help your group convey its interests in any detailed regulatory negotiation.

Bottom-line: A good Canadian legislative lobbyist helps you hang in and hang on every step of the way to allow you to present your case in the best possible light and with the greatest possible, positive impact.


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