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Revised Lobbyists' Code of Conduct for consultation


Consultation period: Oct. 16, 2014 to Dec. 19, 2014

Read the Revised Lobbyists' Code of Conduct — Background Paper

The Lobbying Act (the Act) gives the Commissioner of Lobbying the authority to develop a code of conduct for lobbyists and directs her to "consult persons and organizations that the Commissioner considers are interested in the Code."

The objective of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (the Code) is to assure the Canadian public that lobbying is done ethically and in accordance with the highest standards. It is intended to enhance public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government decision-making.

The Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct is an important tool not only for lobbyists, but also for federal public office holders. As the objects of lobbying, it is important that they understand the standards of conduct to expect from lobbyists who communicate with them.

The Code which came into effect in 1997 is comprised of three overarching principles and a set of eight rules addressing transparency, confidentiality and conflict of interest. In the fall of 2013, the Commissioner of Lobbying, Karen E. Shepherd, held a consultation to determine whether revisions to the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct were warranted. Based on the views heard during the 2013 consultation and her own experience in administering the Code, the Commissioner decided that the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct should be revised.

On October 16, 2014, the Commissioner launched a public consultation on the revised Code. An background paper explaining the changes is available.

The consultation period will run from October 16, 2014 to December 19, 2014. Comments can be submitted to and will be posted on the Office’s website.

As is required by the Lobbying Act, the revised Code will be referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, prior to being published in the Canada Gazette.

Until such time as the revised Code comes into effect, the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct introduced in 1997 remains in place.

The Commissioner’s changes


The main objective of the Lobbying Act is to provide transparency to communications that take place between lobbyists and federal public office holders. The public consultation held in the fall of 2013 revealed a general consensus that the scope of the Code should match that of the Act. All rules that relate to the client/lobbyist relationship have thus been removed. The Code now focuses on the relationship between lobbyists and public office holders. Other rules and principles have been adjusted to reflect this more limited scope.

New principle about respect for democratic institutions

Lobbying is a legitimate activity. However, it must be conducted in a transparent manner and in accordance with the highest ethical standards. The three existing principles relating to integrity and honesty, openness, and professionalism have been maintained in the Code, with minor revisions to reflect a more limited scope and provide greater clarity. A fourth principle was added to call on lobbyists to respect democratic institutions while representing the interests of their clients or employers. When interacting with public office holders, their actions should not diminish public confidence and trust in government.

Rule 8 on improper influence amended

The 2009 decision by the Federal Court of Appeal in the case of Democracy Watch v. Barry Campbell stated that avoiding a conflict of interest when lobbying is critical to ensuring legitimacy.

The Commissioner has maintained the content of the former Rule 8 dealing with improper influence, adding the words “real or apparent” in reference to conflict of interest in order to reflect the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal.

To clarify the manner in which the Code addresses conflict of interest, four new rules were added with respect to preferential access, political activities and gifts.

  • Preferential access

    Lobbying a public office holder who is a relative, friend or someone with whom the lobbyist has financial or business dealings creates a conflict of interest between the public office holder’s private interest and their public duty. Two new rules have been added to specifically prevent such situations.
  • Political activities

    A new rule prohibits lobbyists from lobbying public office holders when they have performed certain political activities for them. It also prohibits them from lobbying other public office holders within that public office holder's area of responsibility. The Commissioner believes that such limits are warranted when political activities create a conflict of interest for public office holders. This is consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • Gifts

    Public office holders are subject to various guidelines with regards to what is considered an acceptable gift. Generally, gifts that constitute an expression of courtesy or protocol are permitted. A new rule prohibits lobbyists from giving public office holders gifts that the public office holders would not be allowed to accept.

Clarifying the role of the responsible officer

For corporations and organizations, the Lobbying Act places the responsibility to register and report solely on the most senior paid employee (“the responsible officer”) of the corporation or organization. To ensure that the Code is in line with the Act in this regard, a rule has been added to specify the obligations of that individual, particularly with respect to informing all employees of the responsible officer’s responsibilities under the Act, and all employees’ obligations under the Code. This new rule will facilitate compliance with both the Act and the Code.

A balanced code with a revised introduction

The revised Code remains balanced between principles and rules, while remaining succinct and easy to read. A revised introduction provides greater clarity around who is subject to the Code, who can lodge a complaint with the Commissioner when a breach of the Code is suspected, and the sanctions for such a breach.


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