Annual Report 2009–2010
The Lobbying Act (the Act) provides the Commissioner of Lobbying with an explicit mandate to develop and implement educational programs to foster public awareness of the requirements of the Act, on the part of lobbyists, their clients and public office holders (POHs).
Communicating the rationale and requirements of the Act leads to better compliance. This past year the Office's education efforts focused on four main groups through:
- providing an overview of the rationale and requirements of the Act to public office holders;
- exchanging information with lobbyists and ensuring they understand the legislative requirements;
- connecting and sharing with international and provincial counterparts; and
- raising awareness among Canadians about the objectives of the Act.
Summary of Outreach Activities
Public Office Holders
Federal public office holders, whether public servants or elected officials, have a key role to play in ensuring a better understanding of the Lobbying Act and its requirements. When public office holders understand the potential implications of their communications with lobbyists, they can contribute to greater transparency by disseminating information to those lobbyists and public office holders they meet.
In 2009–2010, the Commissioner undertook a range of outreach activities to work towards her goal of educating public office holders.
- She met with the senior official in each of the 20 most-lobbied federal government institutions (See Annex F for a list of the government institutions). The objectives of these meetings were to outline the requirements of the Act, share views on its implementation to date and determine future outreach and information needs. The Commissioner was pleased with the level of understanding about the Act. Many have taken proactive steps to ensure greater awareness and understanding of the Act among the senior ranks of their departments.
- The Commissioner has started a second round of meetings with Ministers responsible for the 20 most-lobbied government institutions.
- She reached out to the Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM) community by giving a presentation to new ADMs at an orientation session organized by the Canada School of Public Service, and by providing information to ADMs attending the 2009 ADM Forum.
- The Commissioner gave a presentation to the Federal Regional Council Chairs at a national meeting in Ottawa. This was an excellent opportunity to meet with senior federal officials from across the country. At this meeting, the possibility of working together to reach potential registrants around the country who may not be aware of the requirements of the Act was discussed.
- Along with other Officers of Parliament, the Commissioner attended an information session for newly appointed Senators to describe the key features of the Act and her role as Commissioner of Lobbying.
Over the course of her outreach, many expressed the need for several informational documents related to the Act. The Office is working to develop two documents:
- a brochure entitled "Ten Things You Should Know About Lobbying" to help Parliamentarians understand the Lobbying Act. This document will be distributed to all Parliamentarians; and
- an overview of the Lobbying Act to be used in departmental orientation binders. This document will be shared with all departments and agencies as a low-cost way to educate public office holders.
This year, the Office devoted significant efforts to exchanging information with lobbyists, industry groups and government relations practitioners on the Lobbying Act. Communicating directly with registered lobbyists is an important part of the outreach program, whether through meetings, email or telephone. The following are highlights of this work:
- Registered or potential lobbyists contacted the Office daily to inquire about registration obligations under the Act, obtain technical assistance relating to the Lobbyists Registration System (LRS), or provide informal feedback on the system. The Office is available during regular business hours and is continually resolving issues, as well as educating those who wish to register or search the database.
- Multimedia tutorials are available online to provide step-by-step instructions on the LRS, including how to complete and submit a registration form. These tutorials are updated regularly to reflect changes to the LRS.
- The Commissioner and other staff members met with industry groups, including the Government Relations Institute of Canada, the Canadian Public Relations Society, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce to offer information and answer questions on the Act. The Commissioner was pleased to note that participants were aware and interested in meeting the requirements of the Act.
- Registered lobbyists are contacted periodically to inform them about specific registration requirements, with a view to further improving compliance. Usually done via email, this correspondence serves to inform them of changes to the system or offer tips about a range of issues related to registration (e.g., over-reporting, how to reactivate a registration). The tips are simultaneously posted on the Office's website.
- Potential registrants are contacted through advisory letters inviting them to visit the Office's website so that they may determine if they should be registered under the Act. This year, 12 such letters were sent, resulting in three new registrations. The remaining organizations indicated they were not conducting activities that would require a registration at this time. The process related to advisory letters is discussed further in the Compliance section of this report.
Connecting with Counterparts
The community that works to ensure that lobbying is conducted in an ethical and transparent manner is relatively small. It is therefore important to establish a network to connect with provincial and international counterparts and learn about best practices, share experiences and discuss ways to address existing and emerging challenges. The Commissioner engaged with her counterparts through several activities this year.
- The Commissioner met with her provincial counterparts at the Annual Lobbyists Registrars and Commissioners Conference in Victoria, British Columbia. This was the third meeting bringing the group together to strengthen relationships, share best practices, and exchange information about successes and challenges.
- The Commissioner and other members of her staff met with representatives from the provincial lobbyist registration offices from British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario to discuss issues and compare experiences.
- The Commissioner met with representatives of the Embassy of the United States in Ottawa to inform them of recent changes to the Lobbying Act.
- The Commissioner participated as part of a panel at the annual Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) conference, where she presented key amendments to the lobbying regime in Canada. COGEL is an international professional organization for government agencies, organizations and individuals with responsibilities or interests in governmental ethics, elections, campaign finance, lobbying laws and freedom of information.
- The Commissioner met with the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee and the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, which provided her with an opportunity to network and share views on the Canadian and American federal legislative environments. She also met with her counterparts at the Senate and House of Representatives to compare American and Canadian legislative requirements and disclosure databases.
Reaching Out to Canadians
The website of the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying continues to be a powerful tool for disseminating information to lobbyists, public office holders and the general public. The website was visited 89,603 times this year. The most visited pages were: the Registry; the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct; interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions; and the page describing the Office.
The Office will continue to use electronic and web-based approaches to reach various audiences very cost-effectively. The educational material the Office produces is made available on its website and updated regularly. This year, it is worth mentioning the following documents:
- PowerPoint presentations that provide an overview of the Lobbying Act for consultant lobbyists, in-house lobbyists (corporation), in-house lobbyists (organization) and designated public office holders;
- five interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions, intended to explain various aspects of the Lobbying Act, including: the applicability of the Act to Crown corporations, shared governance organizations and departmental corporations; acting appointments in designated public office holder positions; and registration requirements related to tax credits; and
- revised guidance about the application of Rule 8 ("Improper Influence") of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct. This guidance includes a suite of documents that explains conflict of interest and provides advice to lobbyists on how to avoid the creation of a real or apparent conflict of interest.
The Commissioner also gave several other presentations to members of the public to provide an overview of the Lobbying Act and to demystify lobbying. The following bear mention:
- The Commissioner participated in two panels – one organized by the Canadian Study of Parliament Group and the other organized by the Canadian Political Science Association – to discuss the requirements of the Act.
- She gave a presentation to the Rotary Club of Mississauga West to discuss the Act.
- She and members of her staff gave presentations to university students to further their knowledge of the Act.