Annual Report 2010–2011

Message from the Commissioner of Lobbying

Photograph of Karen E. Shepherd

I am pleased to present the Annual Report for the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying for 2010–2011.

My mandate is stated in the Lobbying Act (the Act) and covers three areas of activity: maintaining a registry of lobbyists that is accessible to Canadians; fostering greater awareness of the requirements of the Act through education and outreach; and, ensuring compliance with the legislation and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (the Code). As you will note in this report, much has been accomplished this year.

In the first two years since the coming into force of the Act in July 2008, I focused primarily on establishing a solid foundation for administering the new legislation. In 2010–2011, my Office completed the implementation of processes that were initiated the previous year to both expedite the registration of lobbyists and ensure lobbying activities were more transparent.

This report highlights the outcomes of these processes. For example, the average processing times for initial registrations was lowered from more than 20 days on average to just three days. As registrations disclose lobbying activities conducted at the federal level, I believe that transparency is greatly improved when this information is available to Canadians as quickly as possible. My Office also noticed that some consultant lobbyists are being 'sub-contracted' by lobbying firms to undertake lobbying activities on behalf of a third party. In the interest of transparency, I adopted the practice of requiring consultant lobbyists to disclose both the lobbying firm that has sub-contracted them, and the client they ultimately represent.

I believe awareness of the Act's requirements leads to greater compliance. I am proud of the achievement this year of meeting with nearly 1,500 individuals, including lobbyists, public office holders, parliamentarians and their staff, my counterparts, academics and university students. I appeared four times before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics and once before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, in order to provide members of these committees with information about my Office's work.

The Designated Public Office Holder Regulations were amended in September 2010 to include Members of Parliament and Senators as 'designated public office holders' (DPOHs) for the purposes of the Lobbying Act. I provided parliamentarians with a broad range of information regarding the amended Regulations to help them understand their obligations under the Lobbying Act.

There have been many discussions this year of the interpretation and the application of Rule 8 (Improper Influence) of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, more specifically with respect to the involvement of lobbyists in political activities. In March 2009, the Federal Court of Appeal issued a decision that broadened the scope of circumstances in which Rule 8 applies. This decision has required a significant shift from the guidance originally issued by the former Ethics Counsellor. I provided my own guidance in November 2009 and in August 2010 to further clarify the issue, and I explained my position at presentations I gave during the year. I provided registered lobbyists with a reminder, after the election call in March 2011, urging them to exercise caution with respect to political activities.

Regarding the enforcement of the Act, I have achieved several important results. This year, I tabled my first three Reports on Investigation in both Houses of Parliament. In these Reports, I found that three lobbyists had breached the Code. Two of the Reports dealt with lobbyists who engaged in political activities that, in my view, advanced the private interest of a public office holder with whom the lobbyists interacted during the course of their lobbying activities. Code of Conduct investigations and Reports to Parliament may not result in criminal convictions, heavy fines or imprisonment. I believe, however, that by exposing wrongdoing, they deter the individual from repeating the offence and provide all lobbyists with an incentive to comply with the Act and the Code.

In addition, the process for assessing allegations was streamlined to allow for an early determination of whether a transgression is minor in nature, or more serious. Guiding Principles and Criteria for Recommending Compliance Measures were also adopted. These guidelines document the approach that informs my decisions regarding the proper course of action in each case of an alleged breach of the Act or the Code. Application of these principles helps ensure that alleged breaches of the Act and Code are treated in a fair and consistent manner.

This year also marked the beginning of the legislative review of the Lobbying Act. I had the opportunity to share my views with the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in March 2011. I indicated that several aspects of the Act are working and contributing to increased transparency of lobbying activities. However, I recommended a number of amendments to the Act that, I believe, would capture a greater share of lobbying activities and enable me to enforce the legislation more decisively. I summarized my experience and recommendations in a report entitled "Administering the Lobbying Act — Observations and Recommendations Based on the Experience of the Last Five Years", which I tabled at the Committee. This report is available on my Office's website.

My goal remains to ensure that both the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct are administered in a way that fosters greater transparency and encourages high ethical standards in federal lobbying activities. I am looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that the coming year will bring. I have built a strong team to support my goal of increasing transparency and integrity in the lobbying regime. It is an honour to work with them and to serve Parliament and Canadians in this regard.

Karen E. Shepherd
Commissioner of Lobbying