Lobbying Lobbyists

January 8th, 2014

“I’d like to live as a poor man with lots of money.”  This is from Pablo Picasso, a man who experienced both poverty and wealth.  The CSA is a standards development entity which, depending on who you ask, is either a federal regulator or a private company producing either regulations or suggestions.  To this end, the CSA runs committees which are purely voluntary in nature, that’s very low cost.  We know this because CSA has affirmed the voluntary nature of its committees repeatedly, even under oath.  Yet somehow, the volunteer-based, not-for-profit CSA Group generates more than a quarter of a billion dollars in annual revenue.  The CSA is rich by many measures, including irony.

So where does all that money come from?  Well, it comes from taxpayers.  That’s you.

The CSA is constantly lobbying government for more of your money.  In the last twelve months, the CSA arranged twenty-eight meetings with government officials to request funding.  And that’s just the Federal Government, the CSA is also active provincially and municipally.

Among the highlights, the CSA asked the Federal Government for “funding from Health Canada for the Product Safety Project Committee.”  But this committee is run by volunteers, they are unpaid.  So the CSA wants money to pay for unpaid volunteers.  They also asked for funding to “update” the NGV codes (B108 and B109 specifically).  But CSA sells these codes for $190 each, so why is government expected to pay CSA’s product development costs?  Then the CSA asked for “funding […] for development of storm water training modules.”  Again, the government is expected to pay CSA to develop a training program that CSA would then sell commercially. 

The CSA has registered forty-three lobbyists with the Federal Government.  Beyond this, the CSA has contracted Global Public Affairs to lobby government on their behalf.  Global Public Affairs has subsequently registered five additional lobbyists on behalf of the CSA.  Forty-eight lobbyists, all working for the CSA, and all hitting the Federal Government for money and influence, is a barrage.

RestoreCSA does not have dozens of lobbyists pushing our agenda.  We don’t employ even one lobbyist, actually.  We are the poor man without lots of money.

But we’re getting results anyway.  The RestoreCSA campaign began in early May, 2013, and within days of our media launch the CSA’s lobbying accelerated dramatically.

On May 23rd, the CSA met with Geoff Regan, the Vice-Chair of the Industry Committee.  On May 24th, CSA lobbyists met with Helene Leblanc, the other Vice-Chair of the Industry Committee.  On June 10th, they met with David Sweet, the Industry Committee Chair. 

In the months that followed, CSA lobbyists met with a large number of officials in departments that were directly involved in responding to the RestoreCSA campaign. 

For instance, on Oct. 8th, CSA lobbyists met with Barbara Haidn, the Policy Lead for the Industry Minister.  On the same date, CSA lobbyists met with Greg McFarlane, Policy Advisor at the PMO.  The CSA further met with the Chief of Staff on Natural Resources at the PMO and an additional six other PMO officials during the fall of 2013.

Lobbyists for the CSA also held discussions with the Director of Operations at the Privy Council Office (PCO) and another PCO official charged with “regulatory cooperation.”

Peter Van Loan, the Government House Leader was lobbied on a subject that the CSA recorded as “procurement.” 

On one occasion, the CSA met with Industry Canada to “provide an update on Standards Council of Canada issues.”  On another occasion, CSA lobbyists met with Industry Canada to “discuss changes to the standards system in Canada.”  They met with “a representative” of the Office of the Minister of International Trade to “discuss the [CSA’s] concerns about the plans of Standards Council of Canada to change the standardization system”. 

After RestoreCSA highlighted what appears to be a CSA in-and-out scandal involving nuclear regulations, lobbyists for the CSA met with officials at Natural Resources (the Ministry responsible for nuclear) to provide “a more in-depth understanding of CSA Group.” 

After RestoreCSA requested that the Treasury Board investigate CSA spending practices, lobbyists for the CSA met with “a representative of the Office of the President of the Treasury Board in order to provide a more in-depth understanding of CSA Group.” 

After the launch of RestoreCSA, the CSA’s lobbyists were repeatedly furnishing “a more in-depth understanding” to government.  In all, four departments in three Ministries were furnished with this new “understanding.”

One meeting involved a discussion with a particular Deputy Minister “regarding certain issues that are causing contract signing delays between CSA and Treasury Board.”  It is unclear what these certain issues are, but one should note that this same Treasury Board had already been requested to investigate CSA’s financial activities. 

Then we have this:  “Meeting with a representative of the Office of the Leader of the Government in the Senate to discuss a potential ‘CSA Day’”.  That’s right, a day formally designated by the Federal Government to commemorate the history and ongoing significance of the CSA Group.  Think Remembrance day, or Thanksgiving or Christmas.  The CSA is not afflicted with low self esteem.

The CSA Group is crammed with contradictions.  It is a public regulator without being public, a de-facto legislative committee through ninety years of precedent while denying that it has a role in government, it reports to the Minister of Industry without reporting to the Minister of Industry, its production is the rule of law without being acknowledged as such, its committees are all unpaid volunteers while somehow being the most expensive volunteers the world has ever seen.  The CSA is merely a not-for-profit entity, a humble functionary in voluntary service to the public good.  Yet the CSA is also a multinational corporation with dozens of subsidiaries, over one thousand, six hundred staff, thirty-six offices around the world and over a quarter billion dollars in annual revenue.

They are poor, poor people, with lots and lots of our money.