Legal Update - May 1996:
Changes to Lobbyists Registration Act
Amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act came into force on
January 31, 1996. Changes to the Act have increased reporting obligations
on federal lobbyists, enhanced the Registrar's ability to verify
and request clarification of submitted information, and will require
lobbyists to conform to a code of conduct. The information collected
will be available to the public through a computerized registry
system. The Act will be reviewed by Parliament in five years.
The Act now differentiates among three types of lobbyists. Paid
individuals who lobby on behalf of clients--formerly Tier 1 lobbyists--must
register as Consultant Lobbyists, while employees of corporations
who lobby as a significant part of their duties--formerly Tier 2
lobbyists--must register as In-house Lobbyists (Corporate). Finally,
senior officials of organizations must register as In-house Lobbyists
(Organization), where lobbying by one or more employees, when accumulated,
amounts to a significant part of the duties of one employee. The
Registrar has defined "significant" to mean at least 20
percent of an employee s time. All three types of lobbyists are
generally required to disclose the specific subject-matter of their
lobbying efforts, the government departments and institutions they
approach, and the methods they adopt to communicate with public
In addition to existing requirements to disclose the identity
of their clients, Consultant Lobbyists must disclose the true beneficiaries
of their lobbying efforts. Consultant Lobbyists must register the
name and business address of anyone who directs or controls the
client, the client s subsidiaries which directly benefit from the
lobbying efforts, and, if the client is a coalition, the names and
business addresses of its corporate and organizational members.
Whether the client receives any government funding must also be
provided to the registry. Funds subject to disclosure typically
include federal grants and other unconditional and conditional transfer
payments for which the government does not receive any goods or
services, but do not include repayable contributions, loans, loan
guarantees, tax credits, remission orders or procurement contracts.
The Consultant Lobbyist must also disclose whether his or her payment
is through a contingency fee. The Act does not require registration
for individuals who merely monitor federal government activities.
In-house lobbyists (corporate)
In the past, corporate officers who attempted to influence government
decisions were only obligated to disclose their name, and the employer's
name and address to the Registry (the so-called "business card
disclosure"). Amendments to the Act now require In-house Corporate
Lobbyists to disclose practically the same information required
of Consultant Lobbyists. Aside from the names and addresses of the
employee, employer, parent corporations, and the subsidiaries that
directly benefit from the lobbying activities, the Corporate Lobbyist
must also provide a general description of the employer's business
or activities to the Registrar, and any government funding received
by the employer. Although In-house lobbyists are subject to general
reporting requirements, described above, routine dealings with government
inspectors and regulatory authorities do not require registration.
Similarly, communications between government officials and employees,
whose job it is to sell a company's products and services, do not
fall under the Act.
In-house lobbyists (organizational)
Senior officers of organizations must register lobbying efforts
when one or more paid employees carry on lobbying activities sufficient
to constitute at least 20 percent of the duties of one employee,
in the event that one employee carried out all such lobbying activity.
The Act defines "organization" broadly to include entities
ranging from charities to trade unions and partnerships.
Aside from the general reporting requirements for existing lobbying
and lobbying proposed for the following six months, the organization
must provide a general description of its membership, the name of
the senior paid officer, the names of all employees who lobby, and
the source and amount of any government funding received by the
organization. The Registrar does not require the registration of
activities such as research, standard administrative contracts or
the preparation and presentation of briefings to parliamentary committees.
Each Consultant Lobbyist is required to report to the Registrar
within 10 days of each new undertaking and subsequently update filed
information or notify the Registrar that lobbying has been completed
or terminated within 30 days of any changes. In-house Corporate
Lobbyists are only required to report annually, but must similarly
update any changes within 30 days. In-house Organizational Lobbyists
are required to report semi-annually, although the senior officer
must advise the Registrar when employees cease to lobby or be employed
by the organization within 30 days after the event.
Powers of the Registrar and ethics counsellor
To facilitate implementation of the Act, the Registrar is now
empowered to issue interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions.
He or she may also verify or require clarification of submitted
information. One of the most notable changes to the Act includes
the creation of the position of the Ethics Counsellor and the creation
of a code of conduct which will legally bind lobbyists. The Counsellor
may investigate and determine whether a party has breached the code.
A report of the results of investigations and reasons for conclusions
is then presented to Parliament. A discussion paper on the code
of conduct for lobbyists has been prepared and circulated for public
comment, with a draft code expected to be released in June of this
Parties who were previously registered under the old Act were
required to file a new return no later than March 31, 1996. While
paper filing is available for a fee, free electronic filing is available
and encouraged by the government. Before filing electronically,
however, the lobbyist must complete an Electronic Registration Agreement.
Penalties for breach of the Act are severe. Knowingly making false
or misleading statements may result in a maximum penalty of $100,000
and two years imprisonment, whereas failing to register will result
in a summary conviction and fine not exceeding $25,000.
Clients are frequently unaware of the existence of the Lobbyists
Registration Act, let alone the registration requirements. If a
company's activities include dealing with representatives of the
federal government, it should be made aware of the provisions of
the Act. If such dealings occur on an ongoing basis, we recommend
establishing a central in-house procedure to co-ordinate all required
This commentary was written by student-at-law Debbie L. Wolanski,
under the supervision of Anthony H.A. Keenleyside, a partner in
the Communications Law Group in Ottawa.
Written for Parliamentary
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