Meet Patrick Falconer, the "busiest" lobbyist in Manitoba.

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This article was published 13/7/2012 (3388 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Meet Patrick Falconer, the "busiest" lobbyist in Manitoba.

Since rules on the registration of lobbyists in the province took effect April 30, Falconer has lobbied all 57 MLAs plus the deputy minister and a policy analyst in the Family Services and Labour department.

Falconer's reason? In his words: "The introduction of strong and effective provincial accessibility-rights legislation that requires the removal of existing barriers and prevents the creation of new ones."

Falconer said his work did not involve meeting every MLA, cabinet minister and Premier Greg Selinger in person. Instead, he blitzed them with an email.

Falconer's work and that of the 41 lobbyists who have so far been registered in Manitoba is found on the public website of the independent Office of the Lobbyist Registrar (registry.lobbyistregistrar.mb.ca).

The NDP created the office under its Lobbyists Registration Act to make the daily business of government lobbying more transparent. It gives anyone with Internet access the ability to find out who's lobbying whom and why.

To date, the most public case of lobbying was in the days after the Selinger government tabled its budget implementation act June 6.

Deep in the bill was the intention to impose the seven per cent provincial sales tax on illness-and-disability insurance products. In the budget papers first released April 17, no mention was made of extending PST to these products. It only said group insurance products would be taxed as of July 1.

That apparent sudden change by the province set the powerful insurance industry on fire.

They unleashed Frank Swedlove of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association to set things right and give the industry more time to modify their billing and remittance processes and to communicate the changes to brokers, agents, employers and clients.

Swedlove successfully lobbied Finance Minister Stan Struthers, who backed down at the last minute on taxing individual accident, sickness and disability insurance and extended implementation of the tax until July 15.

The lobbyist registry offers a glimpse of how much access some lobbyists have to cabinet ministers and the premier's office.

Former NDP MLA Eugene Kostyra, representing OnScreen Manitoba, a non-profit association for the province's movie industry, didn't have to meet with Culture Minister Flor Marcelino. Kostrya went right to the top.

He met with Selinger to talk about the need for program or legislative changes to help the industry. What was specifically discussed isn't known.

Other former MLAs are more specific. Former NDP MLA MaryAnn Mihychuk met with Innovation, Energy and Mines Minister Dave Chomiak to talk about BacTech Manitoba Corp., of which Mihychuk is a director.

She lobbied Chomiak to support BacTech and its bioleach technology for processing mining waste and tailings. BacTech wants to build a bioleaching plant in Snow Lake to remove and neutralize harmful elements such as arsenic and recover the gold and other marketable products.

Former Progressive Conservative MLA Jim Downey represented Elkhorn Resort near Clear Lake and its efforts to increase tourism and resort activity.

He didn't get any time with the premier or a cabinet minister, but he did meet with Harvey Bostrom, the deputy minister of Aboriginal and Northern Affairs, and Colin Ferguson of Travel Manitoba.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca