Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Lobbyist act puts lawyers in professional conflict, says lawyer

The provincial Lobbyist Registration Act puts lawyers working for local governments in an awkward position, said Bill Buholzer, a lawyer who has registered on behalf of five such clients.

“I think what I’m doing is technically caught by [the Act],” he said, explaining why he’d registered on behalf of New Westminster, Squamish, Keremeos, Vernon and the Fraser Valley Regional District. But most of his work is on routine things like getting specific powers granted to communities under the Local Government Act, he said. “It's very mundane, dry stuff.”

The work does, however, appear to fit the definition of “lobbying” used in the registration act, he said. That puts him and other lawyers in the odd position of having to choose between meeting the act’s requirements to report publicly what they are doing and upholding the solicitor-client privilege which would normally restrict a lawyer from saying publicly who his or her clients are.

“There seems to be a gap between what’s caught and what’s supposed to be caught,” he said, adding the government should look closely at the issue when it goes through the promised review of the Lobbyist Registration Act.

It would not, however, make sense to exempt all lawyers from registering, he said. “There are lawyers who actually don't practice much law but are using contacts to bring business to their law firm.”

There are also lawyers like former Liberal Party president Andrew Wilkinson and former Attorney General Geoff Plant, who is registered to lobby as “Paul Plant”, whose work for clients clearly meets a more traditional definition of lobbying, such as arranging or attending meetings with cabinet ministers or seeking policy changes.

A simpler way to achieve the same goal of transparency, allowing the public to see who is talking to their elected officials, would be to require representatives to make their appointment books publicly available online, Buholzer said.

The Tyee reported this week on the trend of lobbyists registering to work for local governments, some of which appears to be lawyers doing the kind of work Buholzer describes, and some of which appears to be people with political connections seeking the attention of MLAs and cabinet ministers for their clients.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus