Say it with a sigh

In 2008, Attorney General Wally Oppal said the Campbell administration might amend its flawed Lobbyists Registration Act - perhaps before the election. But, according to emails obtained exclusively by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, that statement appears to frustrated his top political aide. On March 17 of that year, CFAX 1070 reported the New Democrats were demanding changes to that legislation which would ban deputy ministers and political appointees from lobbying the government for two years after leaving its employ.

In response, Attorney General Oppal said the idea of a two-year ban was ridiculous. But he also said he was open to making changes to that law as early as the fall - a statement that didn't seem to sit well with the attorney general's then ministerial assistant Michael Harrison.

Forwarding a copy of the report to deputy attorney general Allan Seckel, Mr. Harrison attached this message to the email: "Sigh..."

In response, Mr. Seckel replied, "Get some control, Mr. M.A.! :)"

Mr. Harrison, who is now working for Finance Minister Colin Hansen, and Mr. Seckel declined a request for comment.

But New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Krog didn't, stating, "It demonstrates, sadly, that Minister Oppal does not appear to be in control of his ministry."

"If I were Mr. Oppal, I'd be embarrassed and I'd be reconsidering who should be my deputy attorney general," Mr. Krog continued.

"If I were the attorney general and that kind of memo surfaced that showed such a complete lack of respect for me as the attorney general - which is a unique position in our system - I don't think I'd want anyone working for me who'd be part of that kind of exchange."

Lobbyists registrar David Loukidelis called on the Campbell administration to fix the act as early as May 28, 2007.

But, to date, the Campbell administration has yet to do so - despite the fact the registrar presently has no power to investigate alleged violations of that legislation.

***

From: Seckel, Allan AG:EX
Sent: Mon, March 17, 2008 6:37 PM
To: Harrison, Michael D AG:EX
Subject: RE: AG Oppal says lobbyist law might be changed - CFAX 4 pm - Mar-17-08

Get some control, Mr. M.A.! :)

-----Original Message-----
From: Harrison, Michael D AG:EX
Sent: March 17, 2008 - 06:21 PM
To: Seckel, Allan AG:EX
Subject: Fw: AG Oppal says lobbyist law might be changed - CFAX 4 pm - Mar 17-08

Sigh...

-----Original Message-----
From: PAB Media Monitoring PAB:EX
Sent: Mon Mar 17 17:24:10 2008
Subject: AG Oppal says lobbyist law might be changed - CFAX 4 pm - Mar 17-08

Media Monitoring - TV

AG Oppal says lobbyist law might be changed - CFAX 4 pm - Mar 17-08

Anchor: Attorney General Wally Oppal says he's open to changing the province's laws governing lobbyists. Opposition leader Carole James has been saying today that former deputy ministers and political appointees should be banned from lobbying the Government for two years, the same as former cabinet ministers. Oppal says the idea of a two-year ban is ridiculous but he says changes in the law could come as early as this fall.

Wally Oppal: You know, I would like to think that if there is a fall session maybe we can get something done for the fall but ah, or, in the spring.

Anchor: The lobbying issue came up after Ken Dobell, a former top aide to Premier Campbell, pleaded guilty to violating the lobbyist law and was handed an absolute discharge last wekk.

(Not for redistribution)

Brian Decker
Media Monitoring
Public Affairs Bureau

4 Comments

The M.A. wrote "sigh" Seriously Sean have we got to the point where no one associated with politics or government is now allowed to express any human emotion or reaction in general and specifically to the ignorant twaddle that is generally put forward by politicians with regards to us lobbyists?

Lobbying is an honourable and necessary function and without us government would be more not less dysfunctional and the interests of the public would generally not be better served. This story is beyond petty to even bother reporting on. Sigh...

Mike Geoghegan

Thanks Mike.

The fact this is being aired today while Wally Oppal is going down is the height of professional misjudgment and mean spirited in my opinion. It's not a real issue and for Wally Oppal to have to face this music today is kind of... irrelevant.

It's a telling exchange on several levels.
First, it demonstrates that Oppal, affable as he might be, really wasn't on top of the job. He was musing about legislative changes that he would have known, if he was paying attention, weren't going to happen. It's a slapdash, sloppy approach to the job of being a minister.
Second, it shows the dishonesty behind the claims that the Liberals want an effective lobbyist act. If they did, they could have one.
And third, it's a reminder of how much time and money is spent managing ministers' messages. Oppal is on a 4 p.m. radio newscast; within 90 minutes his MA gets a briefing note from the public affairs bureau media monitoring arm; and with another 50 minutes the DM is involved.

Wally is old news

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