The Lobbying Act
The Lobbying Act Justice Canada website and its related Regulations came into force simultaneously on July 2, 2008. See below for key events in the history of the Canadian lobbyists registration regime
The Lobbying Act is based on four key principles.
- Free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest.
- Lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity.
- It is desirable that public office holders and the general public be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities.
- The system of registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.
The Act applies to individuals who are paid to lobby. People who lobby on a voluntary basis are not required to register.
The Lobbying Act identifies three types of lobbyists:
- A person who is hired to communicate on behalf of a client. This individual may be a professional lobbyist but could also be any individual who, in the course of his or her work for a client, communicates with or arranges meetings with a public office holder.
In-House Lobbyist (Corporations)
- A person who works for compensation in an entity that operates for profit.
In-House Lobbyist (Organizations)
- A person who works for compensation in a non-profit entity.
Note: Registration requirements for in-house lobbyists (corporations and organizations) are subject to a test regarding the amount of lobbying that they do.
Key events in the history of the Canadian lobbyists registration regime
The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics issued its report "Statutory Review of the Lobbying Act: Its First Five Years" in May 2012. In its report, the Committee requested that the government table a response.
The government issued its response on September 17, 2012. The government responded to the Committee's 11 recommendations by supporting some of them and by stating it would continue to study others further.
The Government Response does not change the Lobbying Act, the Lobbyists Registration Regulations or the Designated Public Office Holder Regulations which are currently in force.
Until such time as any legislative or regulatory changes come into effect, the current requirements of the Lobbying Act and the regulations remain in effect.
The Designated Public Office Holder Regulations were amended September 20, 2010. As a result, the definition of a designated public office holder was expanded to include all Members of Parliament and all Senators, as well as any staff working in the offices of the Leaders of the Opposition in the House of Commons and the Senate, appointed pursuant to subsection 128(1) of the Public Service Employment Act. This brings the total of positions or classes of positions designated by way of regulation to 14.
The Lobbying Act and associated regulations come into force on July 2, 2008. Important changes introduced include:
- The position of Registrar of Lobbyists is repealed and the Commissioner of Lobbying, an independent Agent of Parliament, is created. The Commissioner is provided with expanded investigative powers and an education mandate.
- A new category of public office holder is identified within the federal government. Known as designated public office holders (DPOH), the Lobbying Act defines the category as including: Ministers of the Crown or Ministers of State and any person employed in their offices who are appointed under subsection 128(1) of the Public Service Employment Act; public office holders, who occupy senior executive positions, whether by the title of deputy minister, chief executive officer or by some other title, or associate deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, or occupy a position of comparable rank. A further 11 positions were designated by regulation.
- A five-year, post-employment prohibition on lobbying is imposed on all former DPOHs and designated former members of prime ministerial transition teams. The Lobbying Act states that they cannot become a consultant lobbyist or an in-house lobbyist employed by an organization. They may still be employed by a corporation as an in-house lobbyist, if lobbying activities do not constitute a "significant part of their duties".
- Lobbyists are required to disclose certain details regarding their "oral and arranged" communications with DPOHs. DPOHs, for their part, are required to confirm to the Commissioner the accuracy of the information submitted by lobbyists.
- Payments or other benefits that are contingent on the outcome of any consultant lobbyist's activity are banned.
- The period during which possible infractions or violations under the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct may be investigated and prosecution may be initiated is extended from two to ten years.
- Monetary penalties for lobbyists who are found guilty of breaching the requirements of the Lobbying Act are increased to a maximum of $200,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or both.
- The Commissioner is given the authority to prohibit individuals convicted of offences under the Act from conducting lobbying activities for a period of up to two years.
- Mandatory electronic filing of all disclosures is introduced, but exceptions are provided for disabled individuals and those without access to a computer.
A further move towards greater independence of the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists was made in February 2006, when the Office was transferred to the portfolio of the President of the Treasury Board as an independent entity.
Bill C-2, the Federal Accountability Act (FedAA), was introduced in Parliament on April 11, 2006 and received Royal Assent on December 12, 2006. The FedAA included changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act, with the name of the Act to the Lobbying Act to reflect its broader scope.
The Regulations Amending the Lobbyists Registration Act and the Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, came into force on June 20, 2005. The following major changes were made to the Act:
- A clearer definition of "lobbying" was provided.
- It was clarified that a person making simple enquiries or requests for information did not have to register as a lobbyist.
- There was no longer an exemption from registration if a public office holder initiated contact with a lobbyist.
- All categories of lobbyists were required to update or renew their filings every six months.
- Former public office holders engaged in lobbying were required to provide information on previous positions held within the federal government.
- The registration requirements for both categories of in-house lobbyists (those who work for corporations and those who work for non-profit organizations) were aligned. The most senior officer of a corporation or of a non-profit organization was made accountable for registering all employees who lobby.
- While conducting an investigation, the Registrar was required to notify the police if there were reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed under the Act.
In January 2004, the Government introduced Bill C-4, which came into effect in May 2004. The new legislation changed the reporting structure under the Lobbyists Registration Act, so that the Registrar reported to Parliament directly through the Registrar General of Canada (the Minister of Industry). The position of Ethics Counsellor was eliminated. The Registrar assumed all responsibilities under the Lobbying Act. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists became an administrative unit within Industry Canada.
The government introduced Bill C-15, An Act to Amend the Lobbyists Registration Act in the House of Commons on October 23, 2002. This bill received Royal Assent on June 11, 2003.
The government introduced Bill C-43, An Act to Amend the Lobbyists Registration Act and to make related amendments to other Acts. It proposed amendments to the Act that strengthened the disclosure requirements to make more meaningful and comprehensive information available about lobbyists and their lobbying activities. The amendments came into force on January 31, 1996. At that time, the responsibility for making decisions under the Act was assigned to the Ethics Counsellor.
The amended legislation also mandated the development of a code of conduct for lobbyists. After extensive consultations, including review by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, the Code came into force on March 1, 1997. The Ethics Counsellor was responsible for upholding the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.
The Lobbyists Registration Act came into force on September 30, 1989. It set basic requirements for the registration of paid lobbyists, including that lobbyists were to provide information about themselves and the subject matter of their lobbying.