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High-profile lobbyist for Barrick, Microsoft leaves firm

Simon Doyl

Fred L/The Globe and Ma

High-profile Ottawa lobbyist Jacquie LaRocque has left a management position at Ensight Canada to start her own independent government-relations practice.

Ms. LaRocque, a former public servant and Parliament Hill aide under the Paul Martin Liberal government before she moved into lobbying in 2006, will launch her independent shop, Compass Rose Group, on Wednesday.

"I've always been known to be quite close to my clients in terms of how I service them, and I was just seeking to fulfill a life dream, really, of running my own business," she said.

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As managing principal at Ensight in Ottawa, Ms. LaRocque was registered to lobby for nearly 20 clients, according to the federal lobbyist registry. They included big names such as Barrick Gold Corp., Microsoft Corp., and Canada's Research-Based Pharmaceutical Companies, an industry association. That tally is now likely to fall to four or five retainer clients plus projects.

Compass Rose will be competing in an increasingly crowded government-relations space in Ottawa as other firms increase their rosters and new firms such as Edelman expand into town.

Still, there doesn't appear to be a shortage of work, as other lobbyists said on a background basis that they are evaluating similar moves to work independently. For some, there is a viable model in setting up an independent business where they can work with fewer clients and earn bigger commissions without the costs of belonging to a consultancy.

Ms. LaRocque left a management position in a large firm of more than 15 people to go small, work for herself and offer a more "personalized" service. She said her experience and reputation will draw clients, adding that she intends to run a "post-partisan" business that will search out "win-win-win" policy solutions that are good for the government, the client and the public.

Post-partisanship is an asset as federal accountability rules and ethics around lobbying have had an impact on the business, Ms. LaRocque said.

"I don't think there's a lot of room for those token big names that you put out there in the window," she said. "It has to be based on the policy itself, and the value of it, and what it brings. I really believe that this win-win-win concept is what will make policy-makers take up the ideas that I bring forward. It's not whether I'm a Liberal."

Compass Rose's clients haven't yet popped up in the federal lobbying registry, though Ms. LaRocque is expected to continue to work on the defence, health, agriculture, industry and trade files.

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Ms. LaRocque, 44, said part of her decision to go independent was to do more charitable work. She said she will be offering services pro bono to causes her clients care about.

Asked how the lobbying business has changed over the years, Ms. LaRocque said the industry is going through a rejuvenation in part due to a younger generation moving up through the ranks.

"I strongly believe that the old days of bumping into someone, cornering them at a reception and then having a 10-minute policy conversation isn't respectful, for one, and isn't the right way to do it," she said. "You're seeing a lot less of that."

Her business will be supported by two part-time staff and she will work with partners for outside services such as research, Web development, social media or technical writing.

Valeant registers to lobby on pharma policy

Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., whose share value has more than halved amid investigations by U.S. regulators, registered for the first time to lobby the federal government on pharmaceutical-industry policy.

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The company, officially headquartered in Laval, Que. and listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is under investigation after allegations of price hikes, improper sales reporting and transactions with other companies.

According to the new lobbying disclosure, Valeant intends to lobby on proposed changes to Health Canada regulations on priority products, as well as proposed changes at the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board that would affect the interplay between international prices and Canadian prices for medicine. The federal board ensures that prices for patented medicines are not excessive in Canada.

Short seller Citron Research accused Valeant of using fake sales as it came under scrutiny for dealings with Philidor, a mail-order pharmacy it controlled. Chief executive officer Michael Pearson has said that "there was no financial fraud."

Valeant said in October that it terminated its relationship with Philidor because it had lost confidence in the pharmacy's ability to operate "in a manner that is acceptable to Valeant and the patients and doctors we serve."

The lobbying registration, posted on Nov. 27, said Valeant is also looking to work with the federal government "to develop policies and incentives" for firms to stimulate growth in the Canadian pharmaceutical industry.

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