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Annual report 2016-2017

Letters

The Honourable George J. Furey
Speaker of the Senate
The Senate
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A4

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, I have the honour of presenting to you the ninth annual report of the Commissioner of Lobbying for tabling in the Senate.

This report covers the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.

Sincerely yours,

Karen E. Shepherd


The Honourable Geoff Regan, M.P.
Speaker of the House of Commons
Room 316-N, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Mr. Speaker:

Pursuant to section 11 of the Lobbying Act, I have the honour of presenting to you the ninth annual report of the Commissioner of Lobbying for tabling in the House of Commons.

This report covers the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017.

Sincerely yours,

Karen E. Shepherd


For a print copy of this publication, please contact:

Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada

Tel: 613-957-2760
Fax: 613-957-3078
Email: info@lobbycanada.gc.ca

This publication is also available online and in PDF format at the following address: https://lobbycanada.gc.ca

Permission to reproduce

Except as otherwise specifically noted, the information in this publication may be reproduced, in part or in whole and by any means, without charge or further permission from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, provided that due diligence is exercised in ensuring the accuracy of the information reproduced; that the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada is identified as the source institution; and, that the reproduction is not represented as an official version of the information reproduced, nor as having been made in affiliation with, or with the endorsement of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada.

For permission to reproduce the information in this publication for commercial redistribution, please email: info@lobbycanada.gc.ca

Aussi offert en français sous le titre
Rapport annuel 2016-2017, Commissariat au lobbying du Canada


Message from the Commissioner

Karen E. Shepherd - Commissioner of Lobbying

I am pleased to table my ninth Annual Report for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL). As Commissioner, it is my responsibility to administer the Lobbying Act (the Act) and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (the Code). The Act sets out disclosure requirements to ensure that federal lobbying activities are conducted in a transparent manner. The Code lays out principles and rules that establish high ethical standards that are expected of lobbyists when they conduct their activities.

I am happy to report that the Canadian model stands out among countries that have enacted lobbying legislation or are looking to put a legislative framework in place. Many countries believe that there is much to be learned from the Canadian experience and have sought advice and expertise from my Office over the years.

My mandate, as set out in the Act, covers three areas of activity: maintaining a registry of lobbyists that is accessible to all Canadians; fostering awareness of the requirements of the Act through education and outreach; and, ensuring compliance with the legislation and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. In addition to reporting on this year’s activities, I am taking the opportunity to highlight some of the important numbers related to the application of the Lobbying Act.

The Registry of Lobbyists is the primary tool for ensuring transparency of lobbying activities at the federal level. All information that lobbyists must disclose is available in the Registry and Canadians can use powerful search and reporting tools to find out who is lobbying whom, and about what, at the federal level. The average number of lobbyists listed in the Registry at a given time has been about 5,000 for several years.

During my tenure, I invested significant resources to create and maintain a Registry that is both secure and easy to use. In 2016-17, I addressed several essential development and maintenance issues that I had previously deferred. I updated the database, began a thorough review and documentation of the Registry’s source code, and started development work on new registration and search features.

To comply with the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct individuals must have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and obligations. The outreach and education aspect of my mandate is crucial to making sure that lobbyists, their clients, and public office holders are aware of and understand the application of the Act and the Code. In 2016-17, I added social media accounts on Twitter – @OCL_CAL in English and @CAL_OCL in French – and a monthly blog on LinkedIn, which offer opportunities to increase the reach of outreach and education activities. I also started an evaluation of the outreach and education program which will identify areas for improvement to further promote compliance and increase transparency.

Over the years, my staff and I met with more than 8,500 individuals, including lobbyists, public office holders, parliamentarians and their staff. I devised targeted outreach activities around regulatory changes such as updates to the Act, its associated regulations, and the Code. The tools developed include interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions; presentations; webinars; detailed policy responses to questions from stakeholders; online questionnaires; infographics; and, the Office’s website. This year, I started a comprehensive update of the registry and website to make them more accessible and better suited for use on mobile devices.

While education is important to ensure compliance, it must be accompanied by a strong enforcement program. Over my tenure, the capacity of my Office to enforce the Act has been strengthened because of legislative amendments, and the development of processes to verify and address non-compliance. In 2016-17, the courts returned verdicts in three cases where charges were laid following my referrals to the RCMP. Three individuals were found guilty of offences under the Act and were fined. These penalties serve as important reminders that breaching the Act has consequences. I continue to advocate for an enforcement model that would provide a wider range of compliance measures between the system of education, correction and monitoring employed to address minor transgressions, and Reports to Parliament or criminal proceedings with resulting fines, jail terms and possible prohibition, for more serious ones. As the next statutory five-year review of the Lobbying Act could be launched in 2017, I recommend that Parliament consider providing a range of enforcement options with tools such as compliance agreements, administrative monetary penalties, and expanded authority to prohibit those who breach the Act or the Code from lobbying for a period of time.

In closing, I am proud of all that I have accomplished during my tenure as Canada’s first Commissioner of Lobbying. I am pleased to have had another year to work with the OCL’s team of dedicated professionals. I have been able to focus on using technology to communicate with stakeholders through social media and to plan additional improvements to the registry to ensure it remains modern and robust by making it more mobile-friendly and facilitating the confirmation of the information contained in monthly communication reports. I am confident that the next Commissioner will greatly benefit from these developments and my team’s professionalism and support.

Karen E. Shepherd
Commissioner of Lobbying


Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada

The Commissioner of Lobbying is an independent Agent of Parliament, appointed by resolution of both Houses of Parliament under the Lobbying Act (the Act) for a term of seven years. The purpose of the Act is to regulate the lobbying of federal public office holders. The Commissioner has a mandate to ensure transparency and accountability in the lobbying of public office holders.

The Commissioner is supported by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL), which was established in 2008. The Commissioner reports annually to Parliament on the administration of the Act and the Code.

Our programs

Registry of lobbyists

The OCL maintains an online, publicly available Registry of Lobbyists, which contains information disclosed by lobbyists. Lobbyists have access to a broad range of tools to assist them in registering their activities and reporting their communications with federal public office holders.

Tools are available to search the Registry and find information about who is lobbying whom and about what. A team of OCL advisors provides direct assistance to registrants, public office holders, and the public in using and searching the Registry. The team also provides advice about the requirements of the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

Outreach and education

An important aspect of the Commissioner’s mandate is to raise awareness about the Act and the Code. The primary audience of education and outreach activities is the lobbying community. Other target groups include public office holders, parliamentarians, the legal community, academics, and other stakeholders interested in lobbying.

Compliance and enforcement

The OCL conducts monitoring and compliance verification activities to ensure that registrable lobbying activity is properly reported, and information provided by lobbyists is thorough, accurate and complete. Suspected and alleged non-compliance with the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct is reviewed and, where appropriate, formal investigations are undertaken to ensure that lobbying activities are ethical and transparent. The Commissioner presents findings and conclusions in Reports on Investigation submitted for tabling in Parliament. The OCL also reviews applications for exemptions from the five-year prohibition on lobbying to ensure that they are granted only when it would not be contrary to the purposes of the Act.

Corporate services

The OCL provides a full range of administrative services to support registration, education and compliance activities, as well as other corporate obligations of the organization. Corporate services include:

  • financial management services, human resources services and information technology management;
  • policy and communications services, performance measurement, business planning and reporting activities; and
  • facilities and security management.

Our organization

Figure 1 - OCL organizational chart
Figure 1 - OCL organizational chart
Commissioner of Lobbying
Karen E. Shepherd
Deputy Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer
René Leblanc
Director – Registration and Client Services
François Bertrand
Director – Investigations
Phil McIntosh

The Office has an overall budget of about $4 million and has 28 full-time employees when fully staffed. It is divided into four groups.

  • The Office of the Commissioner directly supports the Commissioner, including in her role of Deputy Head. This group provides legal and strategic advice, and administrative support.
  • The Office of the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer is responsible for all corporate services, including: integrated strategic and operational planning; financial and human resource management; information technology; strategic policy; internal and external communications advice; audit and evaluation; security; facilities management; and, workplace safety. The Deputy Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer is also responsible for the coordination and delivery of all outreach activities.
  • The Registration and Client Services Directorate is responsible for developing and maintaining the Lobbyists Registration System (LRS). The LRS allows lobbyists to register and report their lobbying activities. This Directorate aids registrants, public office holders and the general public in using the LRS, in searching the Registry, and in understanding the Act and the Code.
  • The Investigations Directorate is responsible for supporting the Commissioner in her mandate to ensure compliance with the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. The Directorate monitors lobbying activities, verifies the accuracy of a sample of monthly communication reports submitted by lobbyists, and reviews and investigates allegations of non-compliance. It also reviews applications for exemptions to the five-year prohibition on lobbying for former designated public office holders.

Important numbers in the federal lobbying regime

0
The amount it costs to register.
2
The number of months in-house lobbyists have to register after they exceed the “significant part of duties” threshold.
5
The number of years the post-employment restriction on federal lobbying applies to former designated public office holders.
6
The number of months after which a registration has to be re-certified if there have been no changes or monthly communication reports.
10
The number of calendar days consultant lobbyists have to register after agreeing to lobby for a client — even if they don’t start to lobby immediately.
15
The day of the month when monthly communication reports and any changes/updates to registrations are due.
20
The percentage used to determine “significant part of duties” that triggers the registration requirement for in-house lobbyists.
60
The maximum number of calendar days it normally takes for the Office to complete the review process for those applying for an exemption from the five-year prohibition on lobbying.

Fostering transparent lobbying activities

The Lobbying Act (the Act) requires the Commissioner of Lobbying to establish and maintain a Registry of Lobbyists that contains information about lobbying activities. Consultant lobbyists who are paid to arrange meetings or communicate with federal public office holders on behalf of clients must register each undertaking within 10 calendar days. The most senior paid officers of organizations and corporations that employ in-house lobbyists must register on behalf of their organization or corporation within two months of the organization or corporation reaching the significant part of duties threshold for lobbying activities. All registered lobbyists must report oral and arranged communications with designated public office holders.

Registry of lobbyists

The Registry of lobbyists is the primary source of information on who is lobbying federal public office holders and about which topics. The Registry is accessible online and plays a key role in fostering transparency. There is no charge for lobbyists to register and it is free to consult. Registrations contain a wide range of information about lobbying activities, including:

  • who is lobbying;
    • the names of lobbyists and whether they previously held federal public offices;
  • who benefits from the lobbying;
    • the clients, organizations or corporations, including the parent and subsidiary corporations, that benefit from the lobbying activities;
    • organizations that are members of coalition groups represented;
    • the government funding received by those represented;
  • the names of the federal institutions lobbied;
  • the subject matters of lobbying activities, including the legislative proposals, bills, regulations, policies and programs discussed, and grants, contributions and contracts sought; and
  • the communication techniques used, such as meetings, telephone calls, written correspondence, and grass-roots lobbying.

As shown in Table 1, the House of Commons was the government institution that was lobbied the most overall in 2016-17. Table 2 shows that industry, international trade, and environment were the top three most lobbied subject matters overall in 2016-17.

Table 1. Top 10 government institutions listed in lobbyist registrations in 2016-17
Government Institution in Lobbyist Registrations Mentions
House of Commons 30,748
Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada 25,265
Prime Minister's Office (PMO) 25,038
Finance Canada 21,312
Senate of Canada 18,383
Global Affairs Canada 17,084
Privy Council Office (PCO) 14,924
Health Canada 13,920
Environment and Climate Change Canada 13,500
Transport Canada 11,954
Table 2. Top 10 subject matters listed in lobbyist registrations in 2016-17
Subject Matter in Lobbyist Registrations Mentions
Industry 17,339
International Trade 14,392
Environment 12,911
Taxation and Finance 12,722
Health 12,361
Economic Development 10,867
Transportation 10,284
Science and Technology 10,097
Infrastructure 9,871
Employment and Training 9,278

Registration process

Individuals who communicate with federal public office holders should consult the “Are you required to register in the federal Registry of Lobbyists?” tool to determine whether registration is required.

To start the process, new registrants must first create an account. Once the account is activated, registrants must complete all the information required for their type of registration (consultant, corporation, or organization). The Act requires registrants to certify that the information is accurate and complete in every registration they submit. The information is reviewed by OCL staff to ensure it is complete before the registration is published. If corrections or additional information are required, the registrant must provide them within 10 calendar days.

Figure 2 below explains the steps to register.

Figure 2 - Steps to register
Figure 2 - Steps to register
  • Step 1 Create your account
    • Before completing a registration, you have to first create your account online and submit a signed Registrant User Agreement. Upon reception, your online account is activated by the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL).
  • Step 2 Complete and submit registration
    • After logging into your account, from the 'New Activities' tab, you have to complete and submit your registration within the prescribed deadlines:
    • 10 calendar days from the effective date of the undertaking for consultant lobbyists.
    • 2 months from the date that lobbying activities represent a significant part of duties for in-house lobbyists (organization and corporation).
  • Step 3 Submit corrections to your registration (when required)
    • Upon submission, your registration goes through a review process by the OCL before being published. If corrections are required, please make them and submit your revised registration within 10 calendar days.
  • Step 4 Submit monthly communication reports (when required)
    • If you had an oral arranged communication with a designated public office holder (DPOH) about registrable subjects, you have to submit a monthly communication report no later than the 15th day of the following month.

I am pleased to report that 100% of registrations processed in 2016-17 met our three-day service standard. The median time to publish complete registrations was two days.

Registrations and registered lobbyists

On March 31, 2017, there were 3,801 active registrations in the Registry: 2,921 for consultant lobbyists, 540 for organizations, and 340 for corporations. This represents a more than 25% increase in the number of registrations. The number of registrations generally remained stable at around 3,000 since 2008.

On March 31, 2017 there were 5,559 active lobbyists in the Registry: 926 consultant lobbyists, 2,893 in-house lobbyists for organizations, and 1,740 in-house lobbyists for corporations. Monthly snapshots show the number of lobbyists ranged from 5,186 on April 30, 2016 to 5,560 on February 28, 2017. This represents a more than 10% increase in the approximately 5,000 lobbyists usually listed at any given time in the Registry from 2012 to 2016.

Consultant lobbyists must file a separate registration for each client and most of them have more than one registration to their name. As a result, consultant lobbyists account for the highest number of registrations. In 2016-17, the average consultant lobbyist had 3.1 active registrations at any given time.

Organizations and corporations that meet the requirement to register must file a single in-house registration listing the employees engaged in lobbying activities. The most senior paid officer of an organization or a corporation is responsible for filing the registration on behalf of the entity. Registrations for organizations are required to include every employee involved in lobbying activities. However, registrations filed by corporations must include two lists of lobbyists: all senior officers of the corporation who lobby, and all employees whose lobbying constitutes a significant part of their duties. In 2016-17, organizations listed an average of 5.3 lobbyists in their registrations and corporations listed 5.2 lobbyists in their registrations.

Figure 3 - Number of active lobbyists per fiscal year
Figure 3 - Number of active lobbyists per fiscal year
Figure 3 - Number of active lobbyists per fiscal year
Fiscal Year 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Consultant lobbyists 1,089 1,131 1,108 1,072 1,094 1,100 1,127 1,212
In-house lobbyists (organizations and corporations) 5,780 6,351 6,960 7,441 7,398 7,325 7,367 7,441
Total Number of Lobbyists Active During the Fiscal Year 6,869 7,482 8,068 8,513 8,492 8,425 8,494 8,653

In 2016-17, the average number of lobbyists listed in in-house registrations was five.

Consultant lobbyists are considered active if they had at least one active registration during the fiscal year. In-house lobbyists are considered active if their name was listed in an active registration during the year. Figure 3 shows the total number of active lobbyists per fiscal year.

The number of active lobbyists increased from about 6,900 in 2009-10 to about 8,500 in 2012-13, and has remained relatively stable since then. In 2016-17, there were 8,653 active lobbyists in total. As shown in Figure 3, the number of consultant lobbyists has increased by approximately 10% to 1,212 from the usual number of around 1,100 over the years. Since 2009-10, the number of in-house lobbyists has increased by more than 27% to 7,441 in 2016-17.

In 2016-17, in-house organization lobbyists comprised 54% of active lobbyists, in-house corporation lobbyists accounted for 32%, and consultant lobbyists made up 14% of all lobbyists.

Registration activities

Individuals who are responsible for filing registrations must also ensure the information they disclose is updated within the timelines prescribed in the Act. By the 15th of the month following a change in their registration, they must:

  • update the targets or topics of their lobbying activities;
  • update the list of in-house lobbyists to ensure it reflects the employees engaged in Lobbying Activity; and
  • terminate their registrations when they cease to engage in lobbying activities.

If the information in a registration has not changed and if no monthly communication reports have been filed, then every six months individuals who are responsible for filing registrations must: 

  • verify and confirm that the information that is disclosed in their registration is still up-to-date.

In 2016-17, there were 10,942 registration activities in total. There were 2,091 new registrations filed and 4,418 registrations updated. Registrants certified that the information in 2,800 registrations did not change in the previous six month period, terminated 1,300 registrations, and reactivated 333 registrations that had previously been terminated. 

Reporting communications with designated public office holders

The Registry also contains reports of communications, which disclose information about oral and arranged communications between lobbyists and designated public office holders. These monthly communication reports contain the following information:

  • the date of the communication;
  • the designated public office holder(s) present;
  • the subject matter(s) discussed; and
  • the name of the registrant.

Every month, lobbyists are required to report all “oral and arranged” communications they initiate with designated public office holders on registrable topics. In the case of communications regarding the awarding of a grant, a contribution, or any other financial benefit, it does not matter who initiated the communication for it to be reportable.

Monthly communication reports must be filed by the 15th of the month following the communication.

In 2016-17, 22,103 monthly communications reports were published, an average of almost 1,850 every month.

Figure 4 shows that the number of monthly communication reports filed by lobbyists tends to fluctuate on a seasonal basis. The highest number was 2,677 monthly communication reports posted in December 2016.

Figure 4 - Number of monthly communication reports posted, by month
Figure 4 - Number of monthly communication reports posted, by month
Figure 4 - Number of monthly communication reports posted, by month
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
2016-17 1,859 2,246 2,249 1,569 936 1,200 1,785 2,431 2,677 1,128 1,647 2,376
2015-16 1,245 1,023 1,325 870 642 260 303 321 612 614 1,574 2,838
2014-15 847 1,251 1,321 828 579 647 1,199 1,503 1,929 870 914 1,246
2013-14 900 1,046 1,267 905 480 682 882 1,394 1,693 838 851 1,154

As shown in Table 3, designated public office holders at the House of Commons were named most often in monthly communication reports in 2016-17. Table 4 shows that health, industry, and international trade were the top three subject matters discussed with designated public office holders named in monthly communication reports in 2016-17.

Table 3. Top 10 government institutions listed in monthly communication reports in 2016-17
Government Institution in Monthly Communication Reports Mentions
House of Commons 8,370
Innovation Science and Economic Development Canada 2,051
Finance Canada 1,210
Global Affairs Canada 1,191
Prime Minister's Office (PMO) 1,170
Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) 935
Environment and Climate Change Canada 880
Senate of Canada 822
Transport Canada (TC) 783
Health Canada (HC) 524
Table 4. Top 10 subject matters listed in monthly communication reports in 2016-17
Subject Matter in Monthly Communication Reports Mentions
Health 3,171
Industry 2,861
International Trade 2,819
Environment 2,699
Transportation 2,361
Economic Development 2,294
Infrastructure 2,013
Taxation and Finance 2,013
Science and Technology 1,913
Energy 1,806
Timeliness of monthly communication reports

Late reporting of communications with designated public office holders hinders transparency. My Office monitors the timeliness of reports and reaches out to lobbyists to emphasize the importance of filing their monthly communication reports on time. Over the years, I implemented measures to reinforce the importance of filing monthly communication reports in a timely manner. Outreach materials were developed to ensure that the requirements and timelines to report communications with designated public office holders are understood. The registry was upgraded to display a warning when monthly communication reports are filed late and to automatically send emails to the registrant whenever monthly communication reports are filed 10 or more days late.

Timeliness improved further in 2016-17 as 20,849 (94.3%) of the total of 22,103 monthly communication reports were filed on time. This is the highest proportion of monthly communication reports filed on time since 2008. Figure 5 shows the rate of timely monthly communication reports filed in each of the last five fiscal years.

Figure 5 - Percentage of monthly communication reports filed on time, by fiscal year
Figure 5 - Percentage of monthly communication reports filed on time, by fiscal year
Figure 5 - Percentage of monthly communication reports filed on time, by fiscal year
Fiscal Year 2009-10 2010-11 2011-12 2012-13 2013-14 2014-15 2015-16 2016-17
Percentage of timely monthly communication reports 82.6% 86.5% 88.5% 86.9% 88.1% 90.9% 92.1% 94.0%
Timely monthly communication reports 7,272 9,274 10,340 10,203 10,731 13,134 11,627 20,849
Late monthly communication reports 1,531 1,449 1,345 1,532 1,455 1,195 923 1,254

Accessing the registry

The Registry can be searched online. A complete dataset of the Registry can also be downloaded from either the OCL website or open.canada.ca.

Information in the Registry was accessed almost 807,000 times in 2016-17 through searches, statistical reports, and open data downloads.

Client service standards

The service standards that lobbyists, public office holders and members of the public can expect when they interact with my Office are published on the OCL website.

Table 5. OCL Service Standards.
Service Standard Activity
Immediate Answer telephone calls received during business hours within 30 seconds, 80% of the time
Within 24 hours Activate user accounts upon receipt of a completed Registrant User Agreement
Respond to phone messages
Acknowledge receipt of email enquiries
Within 2 business days Respond to simple email enquiries
Within 3 business days Approve or provide feedback on registrations
Within 14 calendar days Respond to complex email enquiries

In 2016-17, 100% of registrations were processed within the established three-day service standard.

Registration advisors responded to 3,523 phone enquiries regarding the Registry of Lobbyists, the registration process, the application of the Lobbying Act or the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. More than 89 percent of the calls were answered within 30 seconds. Table 6 provides a breakdown of who called my Office and Table 7 shows the subject matters of telephone calls.

Table 6. Number of telephone calls by caller type
Caller Type Calls
Total calls by caller type 3,523
Representative for a registered lobbyist 979
Lobbyist 1,640
Potential lobbyist 284
Public office holder or designated public office holder (current or former) 176
Public 244
Board member (consultant lobbyist) 15
Other 185
Table 7. Number of telephone calls by subject matter
Primary Subject Matter of Call Calls
Total calls by subject matter 3,523
Registration support 2,080
Advice and interpretation of the Act and Code 983
Registry use 84
Outreach 32
Other 344

Table 8 provides a breakdown of who emailed my Office with enquiries and Table 9 shows the subject matters of emails.

Table 8. Number of emails by correspondent type
Correspondent Type Emails
Total emails by correspondent type 1,366
Lobbyist 706
Representative for a registered lobbyist 313
Public office holder or designated public office holder (current or former) 69
Public 101
Potential lobbyist 124
Board member (consultant lobbyist) 9
Other 44
Table 9. Number of emails by subject matter
Primary Subject Matter of Email Emails
Total emails by subject matter 1,366
Registration support 843
Advice and interpretation of the Act and Code 318
Outreach 63
Registry use 19
Complaint or disclosure 6
Other 117

Reaching out to build awareness

The Lobbying Act (the Act) provides the Commissioner of Lobbying with a mandate to foster public awareness of the requirements of the Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (the Code). My Office continues to deliver educational activities and products through a comprehensive outreach program.

Outreach to stakeholders

In 2016-17, I added social media accounts on Twitter – @OCL_CAL in English and @CAL_OCL in French – and a monthly blog on LinkedIn, which offer opportunities to increase the reach of outreach and education activities. In addition, in 2016-17, my staff and I met with more than 550 individuals, including lobbyists, public office holders, parliamentarians, and academics. The onus is on lobbyists to comply with the Act and the Code. This year, I continued to issue advisory letters to lobbyists, potential lobbyists, and former designated public office holders who are subject to the five-year prohibition on lobbying. The purpose of these letters is to ensure they understood the requirements of the Act and the Code. A total of 66 advisory letters were sent in 2016-17.

Although the Lobbying Act puts the onus on lobbyists to comply, federal public office holders play an important role in ensuring lobbying is transparent. Understanding the requirements of the Act and Code means that federal public office holders are more likely to recognize Lobbying Activity and to contribute to compliance. For this reason, I regularly meet with senior federal officials and management teams in departments and agencies. My staff and I also offer educational sessions to public office holders across government.

Former designated public office holders

Under the Lobbying Act, designated public office holders are subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying after they cease performing their duties. Specifically, former designated public office holders are prohibited from lobbying the federal government as a consultant lobbyist or on behalf of an organization for five years.

They can, however, lobby on behalf of a corporation, if lobbying constitutes less than a significant part of their work, which I have interpreted as 20%.

Former or outgoing designated public office holders often seek advice and guidance from my Office to understand what activities are permitted. My staff and I are pleased to provide confidential advice.

My Office continues to send advisory letters to former designated public office holders listed in registrations filed by corporations. The purpose of these letters is to ensure that former designated public office holders who are lobbying for corporations respect the restriction on lobbying set out in the Act. Recipients are asked to confirm that they understand the limits placed on their lobbying activities and that they are complying with the Act. This is an ongoing activity to ensure that former designated public office holders who engage in lobbying for corporations within the first five years after leaving office remain fully aware of the restrictions on their lobbying activities.

In 2016-17, one verification letter was sent to a former designated public office holder who was listed in an active registration filed by a corporation.

Connecting with counterparts

Across Canada and around the world, there is a growing community of regulators whose mandate is to ensure lobbying is conducted ethically and in a transparent manner. Interactions between lobbying regulators from Canada and other countries provide opportunities to discuss issues and share practices related to the administration of lobbying regimes.

I participate in meetings of the Canadian Lobbyists Registrars and Commissioners Network, which are held twice annually. Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec have established lobbying registration regimes. Saskatchewan’s registration system became operational in fall 2016. New Brunswick’s registry is expected to become operational later in 2017.

At the municipal level, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton and Brampton had lobbyist registries in place and Vaughan started a registry in 2016. Winnipeg announced the introduction of a voluntary registry. St. John’s in Newfoundland and Labrador and municipalities in the province of Quebec have specific requirements concerning lobbying included in their respective provincial legislation.

I continue to be active in the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL), a professional organization for governmental agencies and other organizations working in the areas of ethics, elections, freedom of information, lobbying and campaign financing.

I am often consulted about lobbying regulation by representatives of other countries. This past year, representatives from the United Kingdom, Scotland, and the European Parliament sought my expertise.

Ensuring compliance with the Act and the Code

Knowledge and understanding of the Lobbying Act (the Act) and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (the Code), supported by an effective education and outreach program, provide the necessary groundwork for fostering compliance. In order to effectively ensure compliance, these efforts to educate must be complemented by a program of monitoring and enforcement. It is important that there be consequences for those who are found to be in breach of either the Act or the Code.

 My compliance and enforcement program is focused on three main types of activities:

  • reviews and investigations into alleged breaches of the Act or the Code;
  • compliance verifications; and
  • reviews of applications for exemption from the five-year, post-employment prohibition on lobbying for former designated public office holders.

Reviews and investigations into alleged breaches of the Act or the Code

When an alleged breach of the Act or the Code is brought to my attention, the Investigations Directorate undertakes a preliminary assessment to determine whether the subject matter falls within my mandate. When the potential breach falls within my jurisdiction, the next step is to initiate an informal fact-finding exercise, referred to as an administrative review. In 2016-17, my Office completed 26 preliminary assessments and initiated 13 administrative reviews.

When administrative reviews are completed, the facts and analysis are presented to me so that I may conclude whether or not the allegation is founded. If the allegation is founded I decide on a suitable means of ensuring compliance. In some cases, education and monitoring is the best course of action. In other instances, I conduct a formal investigation under the Lobbying Act. In 2016-17, I initiated two investigations, as I had reason to believe that was the appropriate action necessary to ensure compliance with the Act or Code.

Files closed

Table 10 provides information about the administrative reviews I completed in 2016-17.

Table 10. Outcome of administrative reviews closed in 2016-17
Administrative Reviews Closed, by Outcome Number Closed
Total number of administrative reviews closed in 2016–17 28
Unfounded – no registrable communication 5
Unfounded – no reportable communication 1
Unfounded – no meetings arranged 2
Unfounded – no improper influence 5
Unfounded – activity not performed for payment 3
Subtotal unfounded 16
Well-founded – education and monitoring 10
Well-founded – Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct investigation opened 2
Subtotal well-founded 12
Subtotal ceased 0

The time required to complete an administrative review or an investigation varies depending on factors such as the complexity of the allegation, the availability of evidence, the number of people involved, and whether interviews are required.

The Act provides me with some degree of discretion in deciding whether to pursue or cease a review or investigation. For instance, I may choose to cease an administrative review if the subject under review enters into compliance. I consider a number of factors in making my decisions. The Guiding principles and criteria for recommending compliance measures explains the application of my discretion in this regard.

If I have reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed an offence under the Lobbying Act or any other Act, I am required to suspend my investigation and refer the matter to the police. After a file is referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), they must conduct their own investigation before deciding whether to recommend charges. If charges are laid, I must wait for the matter to be resolved by the courts before determining whether to impose additional sanctions under the Act. If the police decide not to pursue the matter, I determine if I have sufficient grounds to continue with an investigation under the Code. In either case, a referral to the RCMP will impact my timelines for completing an investigation. My Office did not refer any files to the RCMP in 2016-17.

Administrative review case studies

The following case studies illustrate different outcomes of administrative reviews that were completed in 2016-17.

Lobbying while prohibited – Allegation unfounded

Allegation: A former designated public office holder arranged a meeting between a federal public office holder and the owner of a local business during a period they were subject to the five-year prohibition.

Conclusion: The individual had communicated with a federal public office holder and had discussed the subject of the local business, but those activities were not performed for payment.

The allegation was deemed to be unfounded as the individual was not paid to perform the activities.

Lessons learned: Lobbying activities that are not performed for payment do not trigger the requirement to register.

Gifts and alleged improper influence – Various findings

Allegation: A number of lobbyists employed by organizations allegedly breached the 1997 Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct by donating to a fund. The allegation came to the Office’s attention following media reports that a public office holder had publicly disclosed gifts of $500 and more. A search of the Registry revealed that some of the organizations were registered to lobby the federal government.

Conclusion: In one case, the organization did not engage in registrable lobbying activity, and therefore was not subject to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. In two cases, the donations did not create a real or apparent conflict of interest as the lobbyists did not lobby that public office holder.

The three allegations were deemed to be unfounded.

In the remaining cases, the donation and the degree of interaction with the public office holder were such that the activities created an apparent conflict of interest.

These two allegations were deemed to be well-founded. Taking into consideration the previous compliance history of the organizations, whether the donation had been returned, and the subsequent degree of involvement in lobbying of the individuals who made the donations, education and monitoring was deemed a suitable means of ensuring future compliance.

Lessons learned: Individuals, organizations, and corporations who lobby federal public office holders should be mindful that gifts in the form of donations risk creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. The best way to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest is to avoid giving gifts to any public office holder one may lobby. The 2015 Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and the Commissioner’s Guidance for lobbyists regarding the application of Rule 10 of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct – Gifts clarify the expectations for lobbyists with respect to gifts.

Gifts and alleged improper influence – Various findings

Allegation: A number of lobbyists allegedly breached the 1997 version of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct by offering a public office holder tickets to various dinners and receptions. Administrative reviews were undertaken to determine whether the lobbyists had created a sense of obligation on the part of the public office holder by providing the gifts, and the degree that they interacted with the public office holder in the context of their lobbying activities.

Conclusion: In three cases, the value of the tickets and the degree of interaction with the public office holder was such that the lobbyists’ activities created an apparent conflict of interest as all three organizations were registered to lobby the government institution that employed the public office holder.

The three allegations were deemed to be well-founded. Taking into consideration the compliance history of the organizations, efforts taken by the lobbyists to verify that the public office holder was in compliance with their applicable values and ethics regulations, and the general level of awareness about the propriety of gift-giving at the time, education and monitoring was deemed a suitable means of ensuring future compliance.

Lessons learned: A gift includes anything of value, given for free or at a reduced rate, when there is no obligation to repay. Lobbyists are cautioned against providing public office holders whom they are lobbying or will lobby with tickets to charitable or other events, when these tickets are at a reduced cost or no cost. The provision of such a ticket may reasonably be viewed as creating a sense of obligation on the part of a public office holder, and therefore risks creating a conflict of interest for the public office holder. The 2015 Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct and the Commissioner’s Guidance for lobbyists regarding the application of Rule 10 of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct – Gifts clarify the expectations for lobbyists with respect to gifts.

Compliance verifications

The Compliance Advisory Team brings together employees from across the organization and integrates education, registration, investigation, policy and IT expertise. The Team reviews existing compliance verification activities, recommends ways to make the activities more effective, and proposed new activities designed to increase compliance. Analysis of factors that may influence federal lobbying helps to determine how to improve the effectiveness of monitoring and compliance verification activities.

There are five types of compliance verification activities performed by my Office:

  • monthly communication report verifications;
  • compliance assessments;
  • compliance analyses;
  • compliance audits; and
  • media monitoring.

Monthly communication report verifications

My Office conducts verifications to confirm the accuracy of monthly communication reports submitted by lobbyists. Every month, a 5% sample of reports submitted during the previous month is selected. Designated public office holders identified in those reports are asked to validate the information. In addition to measuring the accuracy of communications reports, this process is effective in reminding designated public office holders that they are the object of reportable lobbying activities.

In 2016-17, my Office completed 136 verifications with designated public office holders, covering 867 monthly communication reports. Those verifications confirmed that 809 (93%) of the sampled reports were accurate. Of those that were found to be inaccurate, two-thirds had only minor clerical or over-reporting errors.

Compliance assessments

One year after a registrant has been advised of a breach, an assessment is conducted to determine if the registrant became compliant with the Act. The purpose is to determine whether there were repeated instances of the same type of non-compliance. Where additional kinds of non-compliance are uncovered, suitable measures are applied.

In 2016-17, my Office conducted 33 compliance assessments and found no instances of repeat non-compliance or additional non-compliance different from the original type being monitored.

Compliance analysis

My Office analyzes compliance by conducting research, reviewing and comparing lobbyists’ information in the Registry. This analysis may focus on specific sectors of the economy or on particular issues of interest to uncover potential non-compliance. As a result, my Office identifies where knowledge of the Act may be improved and where outreach and compliance efforts may be targeted to foster compliance. This year, my staff conducted five compliance analyses and sent 38 advisory letters to ensure individuals are aware of the requirements of the Act.

Compliance audits

The integrity of the Registry requires that the information it contains is complete, accurate and up-to-date. This is important to assure Canadians that lobbying is being done in a transparent manner.

Compliance audits of registrations validate the information submitted by registrants and ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. This year, my Office undertook a compliance audit that compared information about government funding in selected registrations with the amounts reported in the Government of Canada’s Public Accounts. This audit did not uncover any material inaccuracies.

Media monitoring

My Office monitors media reports to identify individuals, organizations, and corporations that may be lobbying. This information is then used to verify their registration status.

When necessary, advisory letters are sent to individuals, organizations, and corporations which may be engaging in registrable lobbying activity to ensure they are aware of the requirements of the Act and the Code. In 2016-17, following media monitoring, 76 individuals, organizations, and corporations were verified. As a result, a total of 28 advisory letters were sent to confirm compliance.

Compliance with the five-year prohibition – applications for exemption

Under the Lobbying Act, former designated public office holders are subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying. These individuals cannot:

  • work as consultant lobbyists;
  • work for an organization and carry out lobbying activities on behalf of that organization; or
  • work for a corporation if lobbying constitutes a significant part of their work on behalf of the corporation.

The Lobbying Act gives me the authority to grant an exemption from the five-year prohibition if I determine that an exemption would not be contrary to the purposes of the Act.

In 2016-17, my Office completed 15 exemption reviews. Based on the results of those reviews, I granted nine exemptions and denied six. As required by the Act, exemptions, and the reasons for granting them, are published on the OCL’s website.

I believe that timely decisions about exemption requests lead to greater compliance with the five-year prohibition. This year, I issued all letters of intent within my 60-day service standard.

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