As we push through another off season it is important to take stock, record some of our history, and find out just who is part of the opposition – those who are actively fighting to keep animals captive in tanks and cages.
Coming out of the 2012-2013 investigation of Marineland Canada, wherein 7 mandatory orders were placed upon the park by the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, then Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur promised new changes to regulations on the captive animal industry. Before she shifted to her new position as Attorney General, those changes were announced to be a new voluntary registry system, alongside industry developed standards (of which we still have no idea what is in place or changed).
There were clearly various different stakeholders vying for influence. The OSPCA, out of all of this, was to get a $5 million/year increase in funding. This to give them the actual capacity to carry out inspections of large facilities like Marineland Canada. Animal advocates split among positions of an up front and mandatory zoo registry, and calls for a moratorium on the import and export of captive marine mammals. CAZA and member facilities like Marineland managed to run up the middle and influence the situation enough that an up front registry was off the table, and any new regulations would be developed in house. Self regulation.
Who are the people carrying out their lobbying? Federally, Marineland’s interests are advanced by the Canadian Association for Zoos and Aquariums Executive Director Massimo Bergamini. Based in Ottawa,Massimo is a registered lobbyist who has twice held positions within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans portfolio. In his duties as a lobbyist Massimo has lobbied for improvements and capital investments at accredited Zoos and Aquariums to be considered under the “Building Canada Fund,” and also communicated with Paul Myers the Vice President of Policy for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on International Trade. Massimo has experience within the one portfolio and office that anti-captivity advocates are interested in – the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It is this office, currently held by Conservative MP Gail Shea (Egmont-PEI), that could end the import and export of captive marine mammals for the sake of for-profit public display OR also known as a “closure of the wild capture loophole.”
Marineland’s interests Provincially are advanced by third party consultant John Beattie of BT Consulting, as well as by Bob Lopinski of Counsel Public Affairs contracted through their legal firm Hunt Partners LLP. Both registered lobbyists, Beattie is known to advocates as the temporary face of Marineland prior to the 2013 season. Beattie brought his experience as a former television media executive and former press aide to former Premier Dalton McGuinty to Marineland, carrying the lions share of their media relations in 2013. Beattie has not filled this role of late, but his lobbying efforts have continued. Beattie’s initial filing with the lobby registry starts around the time of his spokesperson duties – March 14, 2013. However, amendments have been made to his registry as late as November 14, 2014. The main focus of Beattie’s lobbying? “Proposed change to animal protection legislation for zoos and aquariums.” Interestingly, Beattie fills out the sparse registry information to include that his subject matter is “Justice and Law Enforcement.” Which could signal lobbying of the Community Safety and Correctional Services portfolio, or protests/Anti SLAPP legislation more broadly. Notably, the Provincial Liberals had gained a majority capable of passing their previous Anti SLAPP legistlation Bill 83, however, re-introduced the Bill this December gutting it of retroactive protection for cases filed before the date it passes – making it no longer applicable to any of the current lawsuits filed by Marineland.
Bob Lopinski, of Counsel Public Affairs is the lesser known of all of these three but the most influential. Contracted through to Hunt Partners LLP (Marineland’s legal firm) to lobby on behalf of the Canadian Assoication for Zoos and Aquariums, Lopinski’s goal is similar to Beattie’s, “Potential policies relating to the accreditation and licensing of zoos and aquariums.” In Counsel Public Affairs own words, “Whether you need a strategic government relations campaign, an effective communications plan, behind-the-scenes intelligence gathering or a high profile event, Counsel Public Affairs has the knowledge, experience, strategy and track-record to ensure success.” Listing the activity in their lobby register Bob Lopinski appears to have been more active than Beattie, “Arranging one or more meetings, Grass-roots communication, Informal communications, Meetings, Presentations, Telephone calls, Written communication whether in hard copy or electronic format.” Lopinski’s own bio touts his experience in electing Premier Kathleen Wynne to a majority, “Bob Lopinski led Premier Kathleen Wynneâ€™s successful 2014 Liberal Campaign war room and played a key role in helping her new government and campaign team build on the experience of the previous McGuinty administration. Recognized by the Toronto Star as both â€śan architect of Premier McGuintyâ€™s rise to powerâ€? and â€śone of the most influential officials in governmentâ€?, Bob has over 25 years of experience at the highest levels of Queenâ€™s Park and provincial politics.” Bob is certainly the more polished lobbyist of this bunch, with a wide and varied history as a lobbyist – 132 registry postings over the last decade. Ironically, or tragically, Bob is also a lobbyist for “Earth Rangers” a, “kidâ€™s conservation organization dedicated to educating children and families about the importance of protecting animals and the wild spaces they need in order to survive.”
In trying to learn the who and, perhaps more importantly, how and why of the complete political inertia on Marineland, it is important to know this information. Federally and Provincially, Marineland and the Canadian Association for Zoos and Aquariums have lobbyists with direct access and experience to portfolios where change could potentially come, as well as top level contacts within the Provincial Governing party. Advocates should take this information into account before trying to gain the ear or influence of politicians or ministers under these portfolios – are you likely to have a similar amount of influence? What could you, or we, do to get it? Just as important, this information calls into question the decision of allotting time and resources to any level of political effort as this is clearly an area where the deck is stacked against us.
*** All information contained within this article is publicly available information. Information on Provincial lobbyists was found through the Integrity Commissioner Website. Federally, through the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. Unless those mentioned above are ashamed of their relationship with this subject matter we do not consider relaying this public information to at all degrade their public profile. Further, we also always caution advocates to not harass, contact or defame these individuals based upon the information posted above as that would be illegal and we feel would serve no purpose. If any information herein is contested, disputed, or needs to be corrected – please do contact us at [email protected]