Perhaps no aspect of the heated North American energy debate is regarded by the public with as much suspicion as lobbying.
Lobbying involves activities by individuals and organizations to inform and educate government officials who are seeking information they need to make balanced decisions in the public interest. In most democratic systems, lobbying is typically focused on officials involved in drafting, changing or approving a bill, legislation, regulation or policy.
Not surprisingly, lobbying is a key feature of the energy debate on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border, as governments grapple with energy development and its economic, social and environmental implications.
House of Cards
Why does lobbying get a bad rap?
Many people have reservations about the political process and a general distrust of politicians. Corporations too are not highly trusted. A steady diet of news stories about political scandals and Hollywood’s portrayal of lobbying as a shady world of back-room deals doesn’t help. (See House of Cards, any episode.)
Lobbying is legitimate
In reality, lobbying in Canada is an important part of the public policy process that is recognized federally and provincially. Governments encourage industry and other groups to engage in two-way conversations and have gone to great lengths to make lobbying transparent. The Lobbying Act governs the activity federally, and a code of conduct and lobbying registry ensure that lobbying activity is posted publicly. The provinces also have rules, codes and registries in place to ensure transparency.
Suncor is an active participant in a wide array of public policy discussions with government, including elected and appointed officials of all political stripes with varying degrees of knowledge about energy development. Critics of energy development, such as environmental groups, also lobby to ensure their voices are heard.
As you would expect, climate change policy, taxes and royalties and market access are hot topics these days for oil sands development proponents and opponents alike.
For governments, lobbying is valued as an essential way to collect the wide-ranging views of its citizens on matters such as energy development. Lobbying generates a rich dialogue, allowing for government to truly consider a full range of perspectives when making decisions in the public interest.
While public perceptions of it may be difficult to change, lobbying is an important aspect of the public policy process and every sector of our democratic society has a responsibility to engage in dialogue on public issues.