‘Regulatory capture’ is a term used by economists to describe a phenomenon where government agencies, industry representatives and industry consultants come to think alike.
These people tend to go to the same colleges, attend the same conferences, and work on the same problems, so they end up with a common mindset. Consequently you get a revolving door between people who work for government agencies, industry consultants and industry.
Regulatory capture is the hidden reason why residents feel so overwhelmed and excluded by large scale public processes. These processes are hosted and attended by people who are basically all in the same business.
A person might step up to the microphone and say something like, “I think local governments should receive a portion of royalties to upgrade infrastructure.” Invariably, industry or Ministry reps will respond by saying, “We agree. Local governments need to benefit from development, and we’ll do everything possible to make it happen.”
But these platitudes don’t mean much. The only way you can really influence outcomes is to dig down into the guts of the process. You have to scrutinize in detail contingency plans, studies, regulatory proposals, impact statements, reports, policy development and recommendations. This takes a lot of money because you need independent technical expertise to do that kind of complicated analysis.
Usually the outcome of big planning processes are that on the one hand, you have an unweighted summary list of citizen concerns and on the other, voluminous three ring binders containing thousands of pages of photocopied self-referential inventories, industry wants and falsely benign architectural drawings showing unobtrusive industrial complexes surrounded by evergreen shrubbery.
The Northwest Resource Benefits Alliance accounting of the infrastructure costs arising out of industrial development is a positive step towards derailing the drift toward regulatory capture. Another important step would be the funding by industry and government of a Prince Rupert Regional Advisory Council to ensure that potential conflicts of interest are scrutinized and that industry supplied information is reviewed by unbiased experts.
A Prince Rupert Regional Advisory Council would be an attempt to fill a glaring void left in decision making and planning processes. In the absence of something like a PRRAC, the decision making process becomes pretty much a down escalator that leads to regulatory capture.
And to be clear, it is foreign industry and foreign governments that are capturing our agencies and planning processes to enable them to own our industrial capacity and resources.
Resident concerns regarding the environment, community water shed protection, and sustainable local industries are lost in the push by foreign owners to cut costs based on select evidence that supports their notion of success, but leaves out the social impacts to the people of the area, downgrades safety concerns and goes for cheap and risky solutions.