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Closing doors.

In 1991, lobby groups weren't too pleased with House of Commons rule changes, which they said could jeopardize their ability to fight government bills.

The new rules were made to slash the number of Commons sitting days, reduce the time allowed for speeches, and make it easier for the government to invoke closure (end debates).

Among the many changes was a provision that restricted the freedom of witnesses to testify at committees scrutinizing government legislation. While government officials would not be restricted, other witnesses could give testimony only on "technical matters."

The Canadian Bar Association warned that government officials were thereby given a privileged position in studying federal bills.

Some lobby groups such as Canadians for Gun Control, for example, said the new rules could be used by politicians who favour the gun lobby. "They could say that a shooting club is competent to testify on technical matters because they own guns and can talk about the kinds of guns they use, whereas 90% of Canadians who may be concerned about the impact of the legislation are not deemed to be competent on technical matters."

Lawyers for the Non-Smokers Rights' Association, said the new rules could discriminate against smaller and poorer lobby groups. "Powerful lobbies can play a role in the development of legislation before it's ever introduced in the House. Once it gets to a committee, if other groups are only allowed to deal with technical issues, it's very difficult to see how they can fundamentally change that legislation."
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Title Annotation:lobby groups criticize 1991 rule changes in Canadian House of Commons
Publication:Canada and the World Backgrounder
Date:Sep 1, 1997
Words:250
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