Saturday, November 18, 2006

Govt in a bad spot

A dilemma is defined as having limited choices, only those choices and all of them are bad.

On the matter of the fibre optic deal and the Lobbyist Registration Act, this government is in a dilemma.

On one side, government can make the argument, and not without merit, that the Lobbyist legislation does not apply in this case when the partners in the deal put forward an unsolicited proposal for government to drop $15m into a cross-province fibre optic installation.

If that's true then what's the point of the Act, so goes he popular thought, if it doesn't cover things like this?

On the other hand if the Lobbyist Act does apply, and the principals of Rogers Communications, Persona Communications and MTS Allstream did not register, then the fallout will be unpleasant for government.

In fact the Lobbyist Act was a poor idea that was poorly executed to resolve a problem that was poorly understood; it solves problems that didn't really exist here (the stereotype of corporate giants wining and dining government officials to gain influence) and ignored problems that do (close connections taking advantage of personal contacts in a province where most people know most other people).

But since the Lobbyist Act was oversold as the solution and cleanup to all problems of undue influence without ever defining what the problems were exactly, the public has read into the Lobbying Act what they think it should mean. And many think it should mean covering actions that led to things like this deal.

The fact that is does not, at least according to Premier Williams and I tend to agree given the provisions of the Act, means government is in a bad spot.

The fact that it's a political problem as opposed to a legal problem doesn't make the matter less problematic.

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