Communicating with Federal Public Office Holders

Purpose of Bulletin

This interpretation bulletin is issued by the Commissioner under the authority of subsection 10(1) of the Lobbying Act (hereafter "the Act"). Its purpose is to provide the Commissioner's interpretation of the term "communication" used in sections 5 and 7 of the Act and address possible implications for employees and heads of corporations or organizations.

Background and Legislative Context

Paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Act requires consultant lobbyists who "communicate with a public office holder", to file a return within ten days of entering into an undertaking. Subsection 5(7) specifies that such individuals are required to file only one return per undertaking. Subsection 7(2) of the Act, in the case of in-house lobbyists, requires the senior officer of a corporation or an organization to file a return containing the prescribed information no later than two months after the requirement to register arises under the Act.

What is "communication" for the purposes of the Act?

Communication, in the context of the Act, involves verbal (e.g., arranged meetings, phone calls, informal communication, and grass-roots communications) or written (hard copy or electronic format) contact with a public office holder. The reporting regime is intended to be comprehensive and transparent to ensure that the Canadian public knows who communicates with public office holders and which interests they represent.

Government-initiated activities that fall within the definition of communication include round-table discussions and other types of advisory and stakeholder consultations on policy proposals. In cases where the communications take place in an open forum in which the subject matters, the names of participants and the name of the government organizations represented are a matter of public record, registration would not be required. With advisory and stakeholder consultations, where industry and other participants exchange views with POHs on broad-based, horizontal issues, the transparency of the consultations factors into the requirement to register.

Advisory and stakeholder consultations that involve closed meetings with unknown participants, no record of discussions or decisions and no details about the proceedings, are not transparent. Conversely parliamentary committees, unless they are held in camera, are almost totally transparent in terms of participants, proceedings, and decisions. Thus, the requirement for registration becomes less necessary as an advisory or stakeholder consultation process approaches the transparency level of a parliamentary committee. For more information on advisory and stakeholder consultations please consult the interpretation bulletin entitled "Disclosure Requirements Related to Advisory and Stakeholder Consultations."

For initial registrations, communications with a public office holder may be registrable if they meet the other criteria set by the Act, such as payment or significant part of duties. Initial registration is always required whether the communication is initiated by the lobbyist or the public office holder. Undertaking oral and arranged communications with certain senior officials (designated public office holders) may require individuals or organizations to file a monthly report. Please consult the Interpretation Bulletin entitled "Communicating with a Designated Public Office Holder" for additional information.

Exclusions

Paragraph 4(2)(c) of the Act specifies that oral or written communication with a public office holder may not require registration under the Act if such communication is restricted to a simple request for information.

Examples requiring registration:

  • communication about a specific application for a grant, a contribution or a contract;
  • communication to determine what additional information is required to improve or accelerate an approval process; or
  • negotiations about terms related to a specific financial benefit.

Examples not requiring registration:

  • enquiries to obtain publicly available information;
  • general enquiries about the terms and conditions of programs and application processes;
  • participation in government-initiated activities such as consultations, hearings, roundtables, or like activities where transparency is comparable to that of a parliamentary committee, with participants, proceedings and decisions readily available publicly;
  • communication with respect to the enforcement, interpretation or application, by public office holders, of any current federal statute or regulation; or
  • preparation and presentation of briefings to parliamentary committees.

For more information, please contact:

Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada
255 Albert Street, 10th Floor
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0R5
Tel.: 613-957-2760
Fax: 613-957-3078
Email: QuestionsLobbying@ocl-cal.gc.ca

Karen E. Shepherd
Commissioner of Lobbying
July 2009