Archived — Clarifications about Political Activities in the Context of Rule 8

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Archived Information

In June 2015, the Commissioner issued revised guidance for lobbyists which explains her interpretation of the Code with respect to the intersection of political and lobbying activities. Information identified as archived on the Web serves as a reference or for research and recordkeeping purposes only. This information has not been altered or updated following the date of archiving. Website pages that are archived on the Web are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards.

I have received requests from lobbyists for additional clarification regarding political activities since I issued my Guidance on Conflict of Interest — Rule 8 in November 2009. That Guidance included a companion piece entitled "Commissioner's Advice on the Application of Rule 8 to Lobbyists involved in Political Activities". Lobbyists have expressed a need to better understand how I propose to assess the issue of political activities as it relates to Rule 8. Although each case must be evaluated on its own merits, I have decided to provide the following clarifications.

My Guidance stated that a lobbyist may be in breach of Rule 8 if the lobbyist's actions create a real conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest for a public office holder. In the "Commissioner's Advice on the Application of Rule 8 to Lobbyists involved in Political Activities", I provided the following advice:

The determination of what constitutes a conflict of interest remains a question of fact in each case. Lobbyists should ensure that their participation in political activities does not cause a tension between the public office holder's duty to serve or protect the public good and his or her private interest or obligation.

Political activities and registrable lobbying activities are both legal and legitimate. The issue of conflict of interest, and the application of Rule 8 of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, may arise when the two intersect. A conflict of interest may arise when a person engages in political activities that advance the private interest of a public office holder, while at the same time, or subsequently, seeking to lobby that public office holder, or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible.

Upon further consideration of this matter, I have concluded that the risk of creating the appearance of a conflict of interest is proportionate to the degree to which a lobbyist's actions advance the private interest of a public office holder; and the degree to which that lobbyist may interact with the public office holder (or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible) as a consequence of their employment or undertaking.

A lobbyist who advances the private interest of a public office holder to a low degree, or does not interact with that specific public office holder (or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible) when conducting registrable lobbying activity, has a low risk of creating a real conflict of interest or the appearance of a conflict of interest.

A lobbyist who interacts closely with a public officer holder (or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible) when conducting registrable lobbying activities, but participates in political activities which advance the private interest of the public office holder to a low degree, would not be in breach of Rule 8. In my view, examples of such activities would be voting in an election, placing a sign on a lawn, purchasing a ticket to a fundraising event such as a barbeque or golf tournament, or donating money to an election campaign within the limits established in the Canada Elections Act.

A lobbyist who interacts closely with a public office holder (or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible) when conducting registrable lobbying activities and participates in political activities which advance the private interest of that public office holder to a higher degree is at a greater risk of creating an appearance of a conflict of interest, and would increase the potential for a breach of Rule 8. Activities that I would see as advancing the private interest of a public office holder to a higher degree than simply participating in a fundraiser include being a member of a public office holder's constituency association or limited participation in a campaign for the election of the public office holder.

A lobbyist who interacts closely with a public office holder (or, in the case of a Minister or Minister of State, the department or agency for which they are responsible) when conducting registrable lobbying activities and participates in political activities which advance the private interest of that public office holder to a high degree is likely in breach of Rule 8. Activities that I would see as advancing the private interest of a public office holder to a high degree may include being a member of the board of directors of a public office holder's constituency association, or organizing a fundraising activity for the benefit of the public office holder or their constituency association, or chairing a campaign for the election of the public office holder.


More information on Conflict of Interest — Rule 8 (Lobbyists' Code of Conduct)