Former Alberta MP and federal cabinet minister Ted Menzies began his new job as president of CropLife Canada last week with one lobbying hand tied behind his back.
When Parliament resumes Jan. 27, the key agricultural legislation facing MPs will be Bill C-18, an omnibus agricultural bill that will increase plant breeders’ rights protections.
For members of the industry lobby group CropLife Canada, representing seed developers as well as input sellers, it is hugely important legislation that will strengthen intellectual property rights.
But Menzies will be missing in action when the legislation is at committee or being debated in Parliament.
As a former member of Parliament and cabinet minister, Menzies is prohibited from lobbying former colleagues.
“I can’t go talk to the minister responsible for this legislation,” he said in an interview. “That is part of the code of conduct from the ethics commissioner.”
But Menzies said his support of the legislation will not go unnoticed.
“I can’t go speak to the minister but we have very capable people here who can go and talk to the opposition, to the public officials, public servants who are carrying this file,” he said. “I can impart my ideas to them.
He cannot register as a lobbyist in Ottawa as his predecessor and former Saskatchewan agriculture minister Lorne Hepworth did.
“I am not a lobbyist,” said Menzies. “I cannot talk to public officer holders for five years. The CropLife board understood that.”
However, his ideas can be conveyed and he can lobby provincial governments and meet university researchers to promote industry goals.