Lobbyists descend on B.C. government seeking policy changes in response to COVID-19

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      The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, once said that "too often, the government responds to the whispers of lobbyists before the cries of the people."

      That helps explain why the lobbying industry has become a powerful force in the world of public affairs.

      So it shouldn't come as a surprise that when businesses and organizations are feeling under siege, they would retain lobbyists to seek the help of the B.C. government.

      And a long list is trying to obtain benefits or policy changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent summary of new registrations.

      It revealed, among many others, that Michael Bailey of Western Policy Consultants is lobbying Ministry of Health public office holders on behalf of the Lynn Valley Care Centre.

      The North Vancouver seniors facility has been linked to 20 people deaths from COVID-19. Bailey is hoping to obtain "government assistance for long-term care homes" during the pandemic.

      Another lobbyist Jennifer Anthony of FleishmanHillard HighRoad Corp., is arranging meetings with Labour Minister Harry Bains and Jobs, Economic Development and Competitiveness Minister Michelle Mungall.

      This is on behalf of MEC "to discuss potential support for retailers and co-ops in response to COVID-19".

      In addition, Anthony is lobbying several public office holders seeking support for the tourism industry as a result of the pandemic. In this instance, her client is Tourism Vancouver.

      The Earnscliffe Strategy Group's Danielle Dalzell is seeking support through the pandemic and changes to risk-management programs on behalf of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association.

      Another Earnscliffe Strategy Group lobbyist, Nicola Hill, is arranging meetings with public office holders on behalf of the Vancouver Foundation. These are intended to convey concerns about the potential impact of COVID-19 on the nonprofit sector and the people it serves.

      That's not all that appeared on the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for B.C.'s April snapshot.

      Home Depot's lobbyist, Chris McCluskey of Proof Strategies, is approaching office holders regarding B.C.'s COVID-19 emergency response initiatives and plans, as well as the company's investments in ending youth homelessness.

      SkipTheDishes Restaurant Services has two lobbyists on the payroll from Crestview Strategy—Sandhu Jaskaran and Alex Chreston—who are arranging meetings with public office holders regarding the role of the food-delivery service in supporting restaurants and businesses, "especially in light of the state of emergency, physical distancing requirements and essential workplaces list".

      Another Crestview lobbyist, Sarina Rehal, is lobbying Bains's staff regarding Value Village's retail operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      The Village of Sayward has an unusual COVID-19 problem. Its mayor and deputy mayor resigned and it's not possible to hold a by-election due to COVID-19.

      So Lidstone & Company consultant lobbyists Sara Dubinsky and Chris Murdy are lobbying Minister of Municipal Affairs Selena Robinson's political staff on behalf of Coun. Wes Cragg. He wants to persuade the government to appoint replacement councillors.

      The back entrance to the B.C. legislature.

      Whirlpool Canada LP also has a COVID-19 lobbyist: Jeffrey Ferrier of National Public Relations. The company wants a "needs-based approach in determining essential service and worker definitions" during the COVID-19 response period.

      Ferrier is also working for L'Oreal Canada in trying to get public office holders to "propose new sanitary standards in the operation of hairdressing salons".

      "These measures include social distancing practices, proper use of equipment and managing the volume of customers," the office's summary states.

      A third client of Ferrier's is the Factors Group of Nutritional Companies, which wants public office holder to "convey the importance of recognizing dietary supplement work as an essential service during the COVID-19 outbreak".

      And a fourth Ferrier client, Sobeys Inc., wants public office holders to hear how the retailing giant is protecting the health and safety of customers during the pandemic.

      Strategies 360 Canada has two lobbyists, Stephen Howard and Michael Gardiner. They're arranging meetings with public office holders to "seek support to maintain the viability of thoroughbred horse racing in British Columbia in the face of recent challenges arising from the global COVID-19 response". Their client is the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association of B.C.

      Navigator's Alex Shiff has two COVID-19 clients: Edward Jones Investments and Health First Network. He's lobbying on behalf of both in connection with the designation of essential services.

      Companies and groups that are lobbying directly in connection with COVID-19 include the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, Airbnb Canada Inc., the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Council of Forest Industries, FortisBC Inc., Gateway Casinos & Entertainment Limited, and McKesson Canada.

      On May 4, a new lobbyists registry was launched on the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for B.C. website.

      It includes a new section called "monthly returns", enabling the public to search the registry for information about political contributions made by lobbyists.

      In addition, unions, nongovernmental organizations, societies, corporations and nonprofit groups will have to register even if they don't surpass a previous 100-hour threshold.

      Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline for lobbyists to update their registrations has been extended from June 15 to September 15.