Skip to main content

Paid lobbyists, the public sector, and golden opportunities

Health Minister Deb Matthews wants to legislate a prohibition on public sector organizations hiring lobbyists. 

Matthew's legislation would amend the lobbyists' registry to prevent private consultants from registering to lobby government on behalf of a publicly-funded institution, the Toronto Sun reports.  Matthews wants the legislation before Christmas. 

Public sector organizations using funds from government to hire lobbyists to help them get more money from government does sound odd.  Even the Ontario Hospital Association says hospital board chairs and CEOs should be the ones speaking to the government on behalf of their facilities. It's been their policy for five years.

Except, what about all the for-profit corporations that hire lobbyists by the boatload?  Won't they get a leg up on the non-profit public sector organizations? 

Professional lobbyists bring insider knowledge and (very importantly) government contacts.  It's hard to see hospital CEOs and board chairs bringing the same to the table.  Especially not for community, northern, or rural hospitals (i.e. the hospitals facing the greatest funding pressure).  And public sector organizations have a responsibility to make their case for adequate funding. 

Certainly the money paid to the lobbyists is tiny relative to the budgets of hospitals and universities.  There's a lot of talk about directing this money back into front line care -- but it's so small that it won't go very far.

From my experience,  government officials Hate (with a capital H) even the quiet pressure they get from public sector organizations for better funding.  So I don't think they will mind separating these organizations from professional advice and assistance.  Far from it.  

When the Community Care Access Centres pushed the Tories for better funding, the Tories simply took them over and shut down the pressure.  A funding squeeze and huge service cuts followed.  The current Liberal government has also cowed public sector organizations -- albeit in a more subtle way. 

But no one is going to prevent giant corporations from doing whatever it takes to get more government cash.  And my guess is that the hiring of paid lobbyists may be the least of what goes on.

Meanwhile, public sector organizations already tip-toe around the government, trying not to offend them. Even while they cut services due to inadequate government funding. The hospitals are a case in point.

More restrictions on public sector lobbying will tilt the playing field further in favour of the corporations.  In the long run, that may well help the corporations privatize more public sector work.

On a final point, Randall Denley at the Ottawa Citizen offers an interesting comment on the issue:


It is interesting how easily panicked McGuinty was on this issue. This use of public money to lobby the government wasn’t exactly a secret. When the Chiarelli issue became public here in 2007 (Chiarelli worked as a lobbyist for Algonguin College -- DA), the government didn’t rush to ban lobbyists. It’s indicative of just how spooked this government has become by its low poll numbers.

dallan@cupe.ca

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ontario long-term care staffing falls far short of other provinces

CUPE and others are campaigning for a legislated minimum average of four worked hours of nursing and personal care per resident per day in long-term care (LTC) facilities.  New research indicates that not only is LTC underfunded in Ontario, it is also understaffed compared to the other provinces. 
LTC staffing falls short:  The latest data published by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (and based on a mandatory survey undertaken by Statistics Canada) indicates that staffing at long-term care (LTC) facilities falls far short of other provinces. 
Part of this is driven by a low level of provincial funding for LTC.





Ontario has 0.575 health care full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) per bed staffed and in operation.[1]  The rest of Canada reports 0.665 health care FTEs.[2] The rest of Canada has 15.7% more health care staff per bed staffed and in operation than Ontario.[3] 


No other province reports fewer LTC health care staff per resident (or per bed) than Ontario.[4]

Occupancy r…

More spending on new hospitals and new beds? Nope

Hospital funding:  There is something off about the provincial government's Budget claims on hospital capital funding (funding to build and renovate hospital beds and facilities).   

For what it is worth (which is not that much, given the long time frame the government cites), the province claims it will increase hospital capital spending over the next 10 years from $11 billion to $20 billion – or on average to about $2 billion per year.  But, this is just a notional increase from the previous announcement of future hospital capital spending. 

Moreover, even if we did take this as a serious promise and not just a wisp of smoke, the government's own reports shows they have actually funded hospital infrastructure about $3 billion a year over the 2011/12-2015/16 period.

So this “increase” is really a decrease from past actual spending. Even last year's (2016-17) hospital capital funding increase was reported in this Budget at $2.3 billion - i.e. about 15% more than they have ann…

Health care funding falls, again

Real provincial government health care funding per-person has fallen again this year in Ontario, the third year in a row.  Since 2009 real funding per-person has fallen 2.6% -- $63 per person. 

Across Canada real per person funding is in its fourth consecutive year of increase. Since 2009, real provincial funding across Canada is up $89 -- 3.6%.
In fact the funding gap between Ontario and Canada as a whole has gown consistently for years (as set out below in current dollars).

Ontario funds health care less than any other province -- indeed, the province that funds health care the second least (B.C.) provides $185 more per person per year, 4.7% more.  
Provincial health care spending in the rest of Canada (excluding Ontario) is now  $574 higher per person annually than in Ontario. 

 Ontario has not always provided lower than average health care funding increases-- but that has been the general pattern since 2005.
Private expenditures on health care have exceeded Ontario government increases …