Registered Lobbyists in Canada and Previous Political Staff Employment

Dr. Paul Wilson
Dr. Paul Thomas

Whether working in executive offices for ministers or in legislative offices for Members of Parliament and Senators, political staffers are influential though unelected elite actors. Concern has been expressed in Canada, as elsewhere, about the frequency with which former political staffers exit government to work as lobbyists. Such a “revolving door” into post-political careers raises questions about inappropriate use of inside information and the potential influence of personal connections over public interest.

Media reports suggest that former political staffers figure prominently both as consultant lobbyists and as in-house lobbyists for associations and corporations. Using data from over 65,000 registrations filed with the federal Commissioner of Lobbying from July 2008 (when new reporting requirements came into force) to October 2019, this paper addresses a series of questions in order to examine this career transition. First, are former political staff more likely to become consultant or in-house lobbyists? Second, given the theory of centralized executive power, do former ministerial staffers, with their executive experience, have better employment opportunities as lobbyists than do former legislative staff, nothwithstanding that lobbying statistics show that Members of Parliament consistently rank at the top of lobbying targets? Third, in 2008 a new five-year prohibition on lobbying by designated public office holders after leaving government came into effect. This five-year ban applies to former ministerial staffers but not to former MP staff. Are there differences in lobbying activity between former ministerial and MP staffers? Or between ministerial staffers who held office prior to these restrictions and those who held office after? Finally, do political staffers move back and forth between political staff work and lobbying on multiple occasions, or do they face a single exit rather than a revolving door?