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Why this backbench MP is lobbied more than most ministers

By Samantha Wright Allen      

First-term bilingual MP Francis Drouin has ranked as the fourth most lobbied MP in 2017, which observers say is thanks to his francophone riding’s rural roots and the Liberal’s committee work.

Liberal MP Francis Drouin's eastern Ottawa rural riding coupled with his work on the House Agriculture Committee helped make him the most lobbied backbench MP of 2017.
The Hill Times file photograph

Canada’s most-lobbied backbench MP in 2017, Francis Drouin, is a “rising star” who’s developed a reputation as a rural champion, say lobbyists.

Mr. Drouin’s 136 communications posted to the lobbyist registry in 2017 are connected to agriculture, tied to his work on the House Agriculture Committee and the interests of his Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, Ont., constituents. A Hill Times analysis of more than 35,000 records filed to the lobbyists’ registry in 2017, as of Jan. 17, show Mr. Drouin as the fourth most lobbied MP, above all cabinet ministers save for Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains (Mississauga-Malton, Ont.).

Mr. Drouin’s French-speaking riding is a short drive from his office in Ottawa and speckled with farms.

“He really gets rural issues and he’s not afraid to speak out about them. He’s passionate,” said Jackie Choquette, Hill and Knowlton Canada’s vice-president of public affairs, calling him a “worker bee” and one known among caucus for getting things done.

“Francis Drouin is one to watch. He’s definitely a rising star.”

Former Liberal MP Joe Jordan, who has worked with “Frank” as many call him, echoed that assessment and noted he has “very good political instincts.”

Mr. Drouin is the only MP in the top 10 who isn’t either a cabinet minister, parliamentary secretary or committee chair.

“I realize that I’m just a simple backbench MP and I’m just a small piece of the pie but it helps me advocate on their issues as well because I find out what’s happening on the ground,” said Mr. Drouin, noting he has a lot of time for associations that often represent the interests of his riding.

Mr. Drouin has sat on the House Agriculture Committee since January 2016. He also sits on the Government Operations and Estimates Committee and chairs the all-party ALS Caucus.

At committee, an MP gets seven minutes to ask questions, which Mr. Drouin said isn’t enough to have “a fulsome discussion on issues,” so most of his conversations happen outside those meeting room walls.

Even so, he says no to meetings more than he says yes. Many of the meetings he did accept were focused on the Liberals’ agriculture policy framework and, in the fall, on trade and North American Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

He was a vocal supporter of supply management on the campaign trail ahead in 2015 and Ms. Choquette said he “never stopped,” calling him a “huge advocate internally” for the system.

Liberal MP Francis Drouin holding a coaster from Beau’s brewery, which is based in his eastern Ontario riding, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Parliamentary Press Gallery dinner last year. The Hill Times file photograph

In 2015, his riding was one of the many to turn from blue to red when Mr. Drouin took the historically Liberal stronghold from Conservative MP Pierre Lemieux, who held the riding between 2006 and 2015, and who last year ran for federal Conservative leadership.

Before being elected to Parliament, Mr. Drouin was a consultant with Capital Hill Group. Before his name started popping up all over the lobbyists’ registry as an office holder, he filed a few times as a lobbyist, from 2012 to January 2015, consulting for Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Canadian Medical Cannabis Industry Association, The NPD Group Inc., the UFC Ultimate Fighting Championship and more.

Former Liberal staffer and Environics vice-president Greg MacEachern has known him long time, dating back to his time in the government relations industry.

“He is somebody who is very accessible to stakeholders,” said Mr. MacEachern, helping them “reach the ear of government” and because he was on the other side “he understands what it’s like for people who don’t necessarily understand the cut and thrust of daily politics.”

As someone who knows the system from both ends, observers said he’ll also pick up the phone to talk to government officials and ministers’ offices on an issue. Mr. Drouin said that frank approach extends to groups communicating with the government.

“I’m a straight shooter—I just tell them what it is and if I think their message is not the right message or if they haven’t done their homework, I let them know,” Mr. Drouin said.

swallen@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

Top 30 most lobbied MPs in 2017, by communications

NameCommunicationsPartyRole
David Lametti163LiberalParliamentary secretary, innovation
Jonathan Wilkinson147LiberalParliamentary secretary, environment
Navdeep Bains142LiberalInnovation minister
Francis Drouin136Liberal
Agriculture, Government Operations committees
Jim Carr133LiberalNatural Resources minister
Catherine McKenna128LiberalEnvironment minister
Wayne Easter125LiberalChair, Finance Committee; co-chair, Canada-United States Interparliamentary Group
Andrew Leslie124LiberalParliamentary secretary, foreign affairs
Lawrence MacAulay120LiberalAgriculture minister
Kim Rudd119Liberal
Parliamentary secretary, natural resources
Lloyd Longfield113LiberalAgriculture, Industry committees
T.J. Harvey106Liberal
Chair, Liberal rural caucus; Indigenous Affairs, Natural Resources committees
Francesco Sorbara106LiberalFinance Committee; chair, Canada-Italy Interparliamentary Group
Julie Dabrusin99LiberalHeritage, Public Safety committees
Pamela Goldsmith-Jones99LiberalParliamentary secretary, trade
Rodger Cuzner97LiberalParliamentary secretary, employment
Judy Sgro92LiberalChair, Transport and Liaison committees
Vance Badawey85LiberalTransport, Scrutiny of Regulations committees
William Amos84Liberal
Indigenous Affairs, Environment committees
Adam Vaughan84LiberalParliamentary secretary, families
Jim Eglinski83ConservativeHeritage Committee
Bill Morneau82LiberalFinance minister
James Maloney81LiberalChair, Natural Resources; Liaison Committee
Randeep Sarai81LiberalCitizenship and Immigration Committee
Marc Garneau79LiberalTransport minister
Dean Allison77ConservativeTrade critic; vice-chair, International Trade Committee
Scott Brison75LiberalTreasury Board president
Elizabeth May75Green PartyGreen Party leader
Kelly Block75Conservative
Transport critic; vice-chair, Transport Committee
François-Philippe Champagne74LiberalInternational Trade minister

— Source: Office of the Lobbying Commissioner of Canada

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