Ag minister most popular among lobbyists

Gerry Ritz tops visits | Grain, commodity and food industry groups were amoung the 111 lobby groups

For the second consecutive year, agriculture minister Gerry Ritz was the federal government minister most visited by lobbyists in 2012.

He was most popular with lobbyists by a country mile.

Records compiled by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying and researched by the Parliament Hill newspaper The Hill Times show that lobbyists reported 111 meetings with Ritz in 2012 on topics ranging from trade, supply management and food inspection legislation reforms to potash industry control and pork industry problems.

The next closest minister in hosting lobbyist visitors was natural resources minister Joe Oliver with 83 meetings, followed by environment minister Peter Kent with 77.

In the House of Commons, an opposition MP quickly told Ritz that if he is so available to meet with industry lobbyists, he should listen more closely to people critical of some of his policies and decisions.

“It is surprising that the lobbyists’ favourite is refusing to listen to experts, entrepreneurs and local communities,” NDP deputy agriculture critic Ruth Ellen Brosseau told him Jan. 30 when asking about food packing industry complaints over new rules.

Some say agriculture is more susceptible to lobby pressure. Unlike many industries with a unified lobby voice in Ottawa, the agriculture and food industry has dozens of lobbyists residing in or visiting Ottawa, as well as transportation and input companies. All want the agriculture minister to understand their position, even on files that are not directly his responsibility, including rail service legislation.

Last year was a busy year on many files that touch Ritz’s responsibilities.

Lobbying on trade issues by exporters and supply management representatives were part of the mix.

Ritz’s lobby year began Jan. 10 with a visit from Bob Friesen of Farmers of North America and ended Dec. 13 with a visit from Food and Consumer Products of Canada.

Lobbyists from grain and commodity associations met him to press for rail service legislation, which was introduced by transport minister Denis Lebel late last year.

Co-operative and credit union sector representatives and lobbyists for Agrium and Viterra also paid a visit.

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