Transparency in 2021: it pays off: conference with Jean-François Routhier, Québec Commissioner of Lobbying

On September 22, the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal hosted the Québec Commissioner of Lobbying, Jean-François Routhier. Before an audience of nearly 100 gathered at the Centre Sheraton Montréal, Mr. Routhier described the role of the Québec Commissioner of Lobbying. He also talked about the issues that affect oversight for lobbying in the province and the importance of transparency.

“People question the value of and need for the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act. It’s time to stop asking whether it is a good idea and face reality. We need to focus on how lobbying can evolve and improve.”

Lobbying: at the service of businesses

During his talk, Mr. Routhier went through the role of lobbying and its importance for businesses and organizations. He explained that lobbying involves communicating with someone who holds public office to influence a legislative, regulatory, or administrative decision, and that the National Assembly unanimously passed the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act in 2002.

“Lobbying has existed for millennia; nothing is more natural than asking decision makers for help and convincing them to buy into your project.”

According to Jean-François Routhier, public expectations have evolved in recent years, and the public demands more of politicians, businesses, and organizations. The technical knowledge of public office holders in cases brought to their attention is, however, limited, wherein lies the interest and importance that citizens, business, and organizations start a dialogue with them.

“Lobbying is conducted in all fields, in all forms, using every means possible. The only constraint is registering activities in the public record. Transparency must be the new normal.”

Jean-François Routhier underlined the importance of transparency and legitimacy in lobbying. On this front, he pointed to the existence of investigators, who, to support him in his duties, conduct oversight and intelligence to ensure compliance in the field. In addition to these measures, Mr. Routhier encouraged stakeholders to be proactive in changing the public perception of lobbying.

Transparency is a winning strategy

“Public image has become indispensable; a reputation is lucrative, but also vulnerable.”

In 2021, transparency is essential, according to Jean-François Routhier. It protects a business or organization’s integrity and image and maintains the trust of decision makers and citizens in its mission. Additionally, social responsibility has become part of a new standard. As such, he pointed out that there is always a risk to working with businesses and organizations that are not transparent, particularly in the current context where information circulates quickly and where the reputation of a business or organization can be destroyed just as quickly.

Mr. Routhier concluded by reiterating the value of the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act, which requires lobbyists to register activities and gives the public access to information. However, he added that a new, more modern, user-friendly platform will soon replace the current register. He closed by issuing a call for participation and engagement, essential to enabling organizations to get the most out of their lobbying efforts and come out ahead.

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