10.22.2012 08:20 AM

Gerry Nicholls opens a door he shouldn’t have

Gerry Nicholls is formerly a “senior officer” with the far-right lobby group, the National Citizens Coalition.  Last week, I wrote a column that mentioned in passing Stephen Harper’s time heading the NCC.  Nicholls objected to what I wrote, and apparently sent a letter to the Sun.  Here is what he wrote, in part:

When I saw Nicholls’ letter on his web site, I commneted, and asked him a question he has yet to answer.  I asked him if Harper had done anything, during his time at the NCC, that falls within the definition of lobbying under the relevant legislation:

“(a) communicate with a public office holder in respect of
(i) the development of any legislative proposal by the Government of Canada or by a member of the Senate or the House of Commons,
(ii) the introduction of any Bill or resolution in either House of Parliament or the passage, defeat or amendment of any Bill or resolution that is before either House of Parliament,
(iii) the making or amendment of any regulation as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Statutory Instruments Act
(iv) the development or amendment of any policy or program of the Government of Canada,
(v) the awarding of any grant, contribution or other financial benefit by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada, or
(vi) the awarding of any contract by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada; or
(b) arrange a meeting between a public office holder and any other person.”

As you can see, the definition of lobbying under the Act is quite broad. Grassroots lobbying – which is what Nicholls has now admitted Harper did – is a communication technique that encourages individual members of the public (or organizations) to communicate directly with public office holders, in an attempt to influence government decisions. This type of lobbying usually relies on media or advertising and results in mass letter writing and fax campaigns, telephone calls to public office holders, and public demonstrations, and so on.

That’s precisely what Harper’s NCC did, according to one of Harper’s own senior officers: grassroots lobbying.

So, again, the question: did Harper do any unregistered lobbying for the NCC?  Because unregistered lobbying is contrary to the law.

The answer, if Nicholls is to be believed, is yes. That’s news, perhaps, so I plan to write about this in a future Sun column. In the meantime, however, Gerry Nicholls might want to think before he rushes to his typewriter.


  1. Michael Bussiere says:

    This may be an interesting sidebar for your article. The NCC was Harper’s only job outside of Ottawa, and I believe it amounts to a 3-person office. He fetched Deb Grey’s coffee when he was 28, ran as an MP, left for the heavy administrative duties of the NCC, and returned to politics in time to claim responsibility for uniting the right which he divided in the first place. Furthermore, it could be argued the man is not academically or professionally qualified to be referred to as a economist.

    • Gary says:

      Well done. That’s Harper in a nutshell.

    • billg says:

      So the BA and MDegree in Economics dont count?
      And who exactly is qualified to called an Economist? I’d say the last few years is proof there’s no such thing.

      • Michael says:

        A Ph.D actually.

      • Michael Bussiere says:

        A Ph.D actually, like Mark Carney or Liberal MP John McCallum.

        Furthermore, amateur economist Harper got it wrong in November 2008 when he said if Canada was going to go into a recession, it would have already been in one. No recession, no deficit, he said. I remember that headline as clear as a bell on the cover of the Globe. He also argued against Paul Martin’s banking regulations like all the other conservative de-regulators, banking regulations which saved our collective asses. Not to mention his 7 years of surpluses.

        Economists do get it right. Amateur economists take credit where credit is not due, and use brainless, endless advertising to distract from their true words and records.

    • Attack! says:

      that’s not actually true: Harper worked for Imperial Oil in Calgary (facilitated, no doubt, by his father’s position w. the co., as an accountant) after dropping out of the U of T; starting in the mail room, then doing some type of computer programming.

  2. Anish says:

    Doesn’t that describe anyone who has written to an MP? Or does it need to be done for some type of personal or corporate gain?

  3. Nic Coivert says:

    The shallowest of PMs has only been a lobbyist and isnt a real economist, pass it on…

  4. KP says:

    Wait a minute, Gerry Nicholls paints himself as the first ‘post partisan’ – whatever that means – pundit. Was he lying to us all this time? Quelle surprise.

  5. Fred says:

    Harper got a masters in economics from cow town college, not the London School of Economics, Harvard, McGill or even the U of T. He never worked as an economist, therefore, he is, at most, an amateur.

    And even if he did lobby illegally for the NCC, do you think he really cares? Will the Royal Conservative Mounted Police press charges? Will the Conservative Justice department press charges?

  6. Mitch says:

    The NCC letter remarkably rife with winners like: “…struck a popular CORD with Canadians…” or “…luring CHILDREN toward VIOLENT pornography…” (as opposed to the non-violent pornography that kids should see…)

    My EMPHASIS added…but more on that below.

    At first I thought my observations were too harsh, even petty. But on reflection, granting ample latitude for a previous time, place and perspective, the letter remains an endorsed, signed (mechanical or otherwise) communication of our now PM. It asked for money to support a cause. It was not a careless expression in a private moment.

    Perhaps, in AUG 2001, our PM was immersed in Economics and thus lacking, or forgetful, of grammar and syntax. Maybe. But that isn’t what grates.

    An apparent failure to check spelling or context pales to the obvious attention paid to saturating the letter with “scary” underlines, italics, bold letters, full phrase capitalizations…or some or all of the above. The focus on “keyboard devices” to the exclusion of accuracy clearly foreshadowed many aspects of current government policy. For a concise example in current practice one need look no further than the inflammatory and inaccurate titles of recent proposed legislation, particularly in Criminal and Social Justice, behind which our current government hopes the fine print will remain obscured.

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