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Welcome to the Federal Lobbying Act

A background

The new Federal Accountability Act (FAA) includes measures that significantly increase the reporting obligation for those consultants, companies, and organizations engaged in lobbying activity, with “lobbying” taking on the broadest possible definition.

Under the previous legislation, the Lobbyist Registration Act (LRA), universities fell into the category of “In-House Lobbyist (Organization),” which required institutions to register if the total of time spent lobbying by all employees would exceed 20% of one FTE. Once that threshold was passed, the institution was required to register under the name of the CEO. Registration included naming all employees engaged in any communication with any government official that was intended to influence. Furthermore, registration required identifying federal government departments with which the organization communicated, communication methods, the particulars of any bills or legislation being discussed, and any government funding received by the organization. All information had to be updated every six months.

At VIU, responsibility for filing monthly returns rests with the Office of Secretariat. For guidance or advice please contact the Office of the Secretariat.

The new Lobbying Act came into effect on July 2, 2008 and it goes beyond legislating registration to actually regulating the activity of lobbying in Canada. New regulations require virtually everything the previous Act did, but also imposes new obligations on those engaged in any kind of lobbying activity.

Current

As with the LRA (after 2005), the Act applies to communication “in respect of” a decision, not only attempts to influence the decision. The threshold for commencing an investigation changes from the belief that a breach has occurred to the belief that an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance.  

The maximum fine for making a false or misleading statement in any return will be doubled under the new Act to $200,000 and/or two years in prison. Failure to file (which includes filing inaccurately or incompletely) will now also be assessed the same penalties. Both penalties would be imposed on the CEO, as the filer of the returns.

Lobbying Act Summary

Designated Public Office Holders (DPOH)

  • a minister of the Crown or a minister of state and any person employed in his or her office;
  • any other public office holder who occupies the senior executive position, whether by the title of deputy minister or an assistant deputy minister or occupies a position of comparable rank;
  • any individual who occupies a position that has been designated by regulation under the provisions of the Lobbying Act;
  • a member of the Senate or the House of Commons and any person on the staff of such a member; (as of 15 September 2010)
  • a person who is appointed to any office or body with the approval of the Governor in Council, other than a judge receiving a salary under the Judges Act or the lieutenant governor of a province;
  • an officer, director or employee of any federal board, commission or other tribunal; 
  • a member of the Canadian Armed Forces; and
  • a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Applies to communication about

  • New laws, policies, programs, or grants.
  • Changes to existing laws, policies, programs, or grants
  • awarding of any grant, contribution or other financial benefit

Enforcement

  • Scope of investigations broadened to “if Commissioner has reason to believe an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with the Act, as applicable.”

Penalties

  • $50,000 and/or 6 months in prison (summary conviction)
  • $200,000 and/or 2 years in prison (indictment)

Commissioner of Lobbying

  • Replaces the Registrar
  • Is appointed by Cabinet
  • Is an officer of Parliament (i.e. not an employee of the federal government.)
  • Has expanded powers to investigate
  • Has his/her investigations reported to Parliament

Monthly reports triggered if

  • Communication is oral (i.e. emails or letters don’t count)
  • The communication is arranged in advance of the contact.
  • The communication is initiated by a person other than a public office holder, unless the communication relates to the awarding of a federal government grant, contribution or other financial benefit.

Required content of monthly reports

  • Name and position of DPOH
  • Department and Branch
  • Date of the communication
  • Particulars to identify the subject matter of the communication.

Continued from previous Act

  • Initial returns must be filed.
  • Financial information must be updated annually.
  • Scope of lobbying (communication “in respect of” a decision) remains the same.
  • Naming of In-House Lobbyists (for organizations: all employees who lobby in any amount.)
  • Directors of boards who are compensated must file as consultant lobbyists.