Hidden influence

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The Quebec Commission recently published a report on lobbyists.

One of their key recommendations is based on an idea out of the blue: the idea that everyone who lobbies is a lobbyist.  The Commission exposes that the very same people, who constantly repeat how industry has dozens of lobbyists, are living in glass houses.  While industry registers people on the off chance they might meet a Government official, political activists meet but need not register.

We agree with the Commission’s recommendations to close the lobbyist loopholes in Quebec.  Vivian Krause followed the money trail and found that big money has figured them out.  As a result tens to hundreds of millions of dollars has been funneled through organizations with hidden influence.

Of course industry is biased, its little more than saying we are human.  That we legally have to disclose our bias doesn’t make us wrong.  With millions and ideology at stake, to think political activists are not also biased is naïve.  That they are not legally required to disclose it does not make them right.

Miraculously we found one of North America’s cleanest sources of natural gas right where it is needed; the economically challenged and natural gas deficit area between Montreal and Quebec City.  Natural gas development will be good for farmers, good for the economy, good for jobs, good for taxes and good for the environment but not good for some people’s ideology.

There is easy acceptance of the idea that the battle over natural gas development in Quebec is a David verses Goliath fight.   But who is David and who is Goliath?  I have been mocked often for my temerity in calling the environmental lobby the Goliath.  I answer rhetorically, “If industry is so well funded and so well organized how do you explain how we are getting beaten so badly?”

We must all live in the real world with its imperfect choices.  Society needs activists who will pull the alarm.  There are bad projects and there are bad actors everywhere.   An opposition loyal to our society is healthy and industry should expect to justify and explain our projects.

However, we miss the plot when we admire those who block more than those who build.  It will always be easier to knock a barn down than to build one and there is little to celebrate in that.  We need our builders and creators. We can’t allow the power to oppose be bigger than the power to propose.  That will end progress and that is simply not sustainable.

We encourage the Government of Quebec to elevate the project for a new law on lobbying.  We think it should come well ahead of any new law supported by unregistered lobbyists to block progress on oil and gas development.