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Consultation on future changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct

Current status:

From December 15, 2021 until February 18, 2022, we invite you to share your views and perspectives on draft changes to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

We're consulting!

Transcript

Hi – I’m Nancy Bélanger. As Commissioner of Lobbying, I regulate transparent and ethical lobbying of federal officials. A lot has changed since the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct was last updated in 2015. I also believe that clear and simple rules are easier to follow and to comply with.

That’s why we’re consulting on a renewed and modernized code of conduct. This Code sets out the rules and what is expected of those who lobby federal officials. It is based on transparency, respect for government institutions, integrity and honesty.

The Code applies to all those required to be listed in the Registry of lobbyists.In 2021, over 7,000 lobbyists were listed in active registrations.

I invite you to read the draft of the proposed code at lobbycanada.gc.ca/codeconsultation. You have until February 18th to submit your comments. I look forward to hearing from you so that we can renew and modernize the Code. Thank you.

About this consultation

Following a preliminary consultation that took place in late 2020, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying has drafted an update of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

We are seeking input from stakeholders on the proposed changes to the Code. Stakeholders are invited to submit their views and perspectives from December 15, 2021 until February 18, 2022.

Established under federal lobbying legislation, the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct has existed since 1997. This mandatory code of ethics establishes behaviour standards that lobbyists must respect when they engage in lobbying activities at the federal level in Canada.

The Code applies to all consultant and in-house lobbyists who must be listed in the Registry of Lobbyists in accordance with the Lobbying Act’s registration requirements.

The Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct is a non-statutory tool that complements the Lobbying Act’s registration requirements and serves to reinforce transparent and ethical lobbying. Breaches of the Code may result in a report to Parliament.

The Code was last updated in 2015, and preliminary consultation with stakeholders and recent investigation reports highlight that further improvements are warranted.

How to participate

We welcome your views on improving the standards of conduct for lobbyists, in particular your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions on the draft update of the Code.

Comments should be sent to engagement@lobbycanada.gc.ca.

As part of our commitment to transparency, all submissions we receive will be published on our website after the consultation period ends.

Draft update: Lobbyists' Code of Conduct

Standards for transparent and ethical lobbying

Objective and application

Objective

This code of conduct exists to foster transparent and ethical lobbying of federal officials.

By complying with the rules within, lobbyists strengthen the ethical culture of lobbying and contribute to public confidence in the integrity of government institutions and federal decision making.

Application

An individual must comply with this code if the Lobbying Act requires them to do so. In this code, such individuals are referred to as lobbyists.

This code of conduct was published in the Canada Gazette and came into force on [Month D, YYYY].

Scope

This code applies to lobbying activities and the interactions lobbyists have with officials that they lobby or expect to lobby.

Compliance

The rules in this code are the standards against which a lobbyist’s conduct is assessed.

Non-compliance with any rule may result in an investigation by the Commissioner of Lobbying. This can lead to an investigation report tabled in Parliament that is also made public.

Guidance

Lobbyists should consider the expectations set out in this code to resolve any uncertainties as to how a rule applies in a given situation.

Expectations

These expectations are intended to guide lobbyists in complying with the rules within this code.

Transparency

Ethical lobbying requires a commitment to openness. Conducting transparent lobbying ensures that officials understand the purpose of the lobbying and on whose behalf it is carried out.

Respect for government institutions

Canada’s parliamentary democracy and its institutions serve Canadians. Understanding and respecting that officials have a duty to serve the public interest is vital to ethical lobbying.

Integrity and honesty

Ethical lobbying grounded in integrity and honesty upholds the letter and spirit of the Lobbying Act, its Regulations and this code, which in turn supports public confidence in government decision-making.

Rules

If the Lobbying Act requires you to comply with this code, you must follow these rules:

Transparency

1.1

When you lobby officials, identify yourself, your client or employer and the purpose of your communication.

1.2

In all grassroots lobbying appeals to the public, identify your client or employer and the purpose of the communication.

1.3

When you lobby on behalf of a client, inform them that you have, and that they may have, obligations to meet under the Lobbying Act, its Regulations and this code.

1.4

When you lobby as part of your employment, inform your employer (as represented by the registrant) of your lobbying activities in order to support accurate registration and reporting in the Registry of Lobbyists.

1.5

If you are the registrant for an employer, inform employees that lobby of their obligations under this code.

Misinformation

2

Never knowingly misrepresent facts, omit important details or present information that is misleading or false when you lobby officials or in grassroots lobbying appeals to the public.

Gifts

3

Never offer, promise or provide – directly or indirectly – any gift to an official that you lobby or expect to lobby, other than a low-value token of appreciation or promotional item.

Hospitality

4

Never offer – directly or indirectly – hospitality to an official that you lobby or expect to lobby, other than low value food or beverage for consumption during an in-person meeting, event or reception.

Close relationships

5

Never lobby an official with whom you share a close relationship.

Political work

6

Never lobby an official or their associates if you have done political work – paid or unpaid – for the benefit of the official, unless the cooling-off period has expired.

Sense of obligation

7

Never lobby an official where that official could reasonably be seen to have a sense of obligation towards you because of actions you have taken.

Appendix: definitions

The following terms are used in applying the rules:

General terms

client

Any person, group, corporation or organization that pays for a consultant lobbyist to communicate or arrange a meeting with officials on their behalf (i.e. for money or anything of value).

employer

A corporation or organization that employs one or more individuals who communicate with officials on its behalf (i.e. in-house lobbyists).

grassroots lobbying appeal

The communication technique described in paragraph 5(2)(j) and referred to in paragraph 7(3)(k) of the Lobbying Act.

lobby or lobbying

To conduct any activity described in subsections 5(1) and 7(1) of the Lobbying Act.

official

Any 'public office holder' within the meaning of the Lobbying Act.

registrant

The employee holding the most senior paid office of a corporation or organization, who is responsible for registering the lobbying carried out by employees for the employer.

Gifts and hospitality

gift

Anything of value given for free or at a reduced rate, such as money, credit, a loan, a reward, a benefit, a good, a service, entertainment activity, property, use of property, etc. For the purposes of this code, the term ‘gift’ does not include hospitality.

Gifts include — but are not limited to — tickets, passes or access to events, travel, transportation, parking, excursions, gift certificates, vouchers, tokens of appreciation, door prizes, promotional items, samples of products or services, labour, and food or beverage given outside the context of hospitality.

hospitality

Food or beverage provided for consumption during an in-person meeting, event or reception. This does not include vouchers or delivery of food or beverage to officials attending by any means other than in person.

low-value

Means the total market value of a gift or hospitality – without discount for anything that has been donated or subsidized – that can be given in accordance with a rule under this code.

Low-value is set at approximately $30 in 2022 dollars, including taxes.

The Commissioner of Lobbying can take inflation into account in adjusting this amount. In doing so, low value will be calculated relative to 2022 prices based on the consumer price index data maintained by Statistics Canada. The Commissioner can also adjust the low value amount based on local market prices of a particular jurisdiction or remote location.

promotional item

Item typically with a corporate branding or message used in the marketing of a product, service or entity. This includes items such as pens, mugs, notepads, calendars, buttons, bags, totes, data devices, information products, and samples of products or services.

token of appreciation

Item given as an expression of gratitude to an official for serving as a speaker, presenter, panelist, moderator or for performing a ceremonial role at an event or function, such as a book, a gift certificate, a box of chocolates, etc.

Close relationships

close relationship

A close bond with an official that extends beyond simply being acquainted. This includes close family, personal, working, business or financial relationships:

  • family relationships, include close family by blood, marriage, common-law or any other status, or any relative or other person permanently residing in the same household
  • personal relationships (close friends), include sharing a bond of friendship, a feeling of affection, a special kinship that extends beyond simply being acquainted
    (excludes casual acquaintances or other persons known only through broad social circles or networks)
  • working relationships, include having closely collaborated for a common goal or having formed a prominent or longstanding close professional relationship, such as being partners, colleagues or allies in the same office, sitting together on a board of directors, delivering a program or service
    (typically does not include strictly professional working relationships between individuals not representing, employed by or connected to the same entity, employer or client)
  • business relationships, include owning or collaborating in a business or in a consortium of businesses
  • financial relationships, include sharing ownership in property, co-managing shared investments

Political work

associate

In relation to ministers, ministers of state, and parliamentary secretaries:
includes their staff and other parliamentarians (as well as their staff) serving within the same ministerial portfolio.

In relation to members of the House of Commons:
includes their staff but excludes their fellow parliamentarians.

cooling-off period

When you have done political work – paid or unpaid – for the benefit of an official, the period of time that must pass before you can lobby that official or their associates. This period is calculated from the day after the political work ended.

The cooling-off period for having done significant political work is 24 months, which would typically be a sufficient period to reduce a sense of obligation. For other political work, the cooling-off period is 12 months. See definition of ‘political work’ for related examples.

The Commissioner of Lobbying may reduce a cooling-off period if the Commissioner believes that it would not be contrary to the purpose of this code.

political work

Includes paid and unpaid work done for the benefit of a person’s political interests or a political party’s interests, in the form of performing roles or tasks during or between election periods.

For the purposes of the related ‘cooling-off period’ (see definition above), political work will usually be categorized as follows:

  1. significant political work, which includes:
    • serving as a designated spokesperson
    • serving as a campaign manager
    • serving as a key agent, such as chief executive officer, financial agent, electoral district agent, auditor
    • providing direct strategic advice in relation to nominations, fundraising, events, and elections
    • working directly with a candidate to prepare their speeches or to prepare them for debate
    • organizing a political fundraiser for the benefit of a candidate or official
    • performing activities listed in ‘other political work’ below may be considered ‘significant political work’ based on qualitative factors, including, for example, if they are strategically important, their volume is high, their scale is significant or if they involve significant interaction with a candidate or official
  2. other political work (with no significant involvement with a candidate or official), which includes:
    • drafting campaign materials
    • canvassing
    • seeking or gathering donations
    • distributing or disseminating campaign materials
    • coordinating campaign office logistics

Political work does not include other forms of political participation, such as:

  • performing strictly administrative tasks, such as occasional work stuffing envelopes, taking phone messages
  • simply attending a fundraising or campaign event
  • personally displaying election signs or posting digital campaign material during an election period
  • expressing personal political views strictly in an individual capacity
  • making a political donation in accordance with the law

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