Annual Report 2011–2012 (Page 3 of 10)

Reaching Out to
Build Awareness

The Lobbying Act (the Act) provides the Commissioner of Lobbying with a mandate to foster public awareness of the requirements of the Act. To that end, educational programs have been developed to reach out to lobbyists, their clients and public office holders.

Improving Compliance Through Education and Awareness

I believe that communicating the requirements of the Act leads to better compliance. In 2011-2012, my staff and I met with nearly 800 individuals, including lobbyists, public office holders, parliamentarians and their staff, and academics from various post-secondary institutions across Canada. I appeared three times before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics.

Communicating with Lobbyists

Significant effort and resources are devoted each year to inform and educate lobbyists about the requirements of both the Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (the Code).

This year, my outreach efforts were targeted at individuals and groups of lobbyists to foster an in-depth understanding of legal and ethical requirements. These sessions provided lobbyists with opportunities to address issues of concern, and helped me to identify areas where further clarification was required to facilitate registration and ensure compliance with the Act and the Code.

Registered lobbyists were provided with information via e-mail about specific changes to registration requirements or other key information such as the tabling of Reports on Investigation throughout the year. The use of mass e-mail is a cost-effective approach to reach registrants, one that complements my website. It allows me to provide guidance in a timely fashion and raise awareness about specific aspects of the lobbying regime, with a view to achieving greater compliance.

Communications with potential registrants

Advisory letters are sent to individuals who appear to be engaging in lobbying activities but who are not registered. This year, 76 individuals, corporations and organizations were subject to compliance verification after my Office's monitoring activities revealed that they might be lobbying federal public office holders. My Office confirmed that approximately 91% percent of the recipients were registered as required by the Act. Further analysis indicated that six advisory letters had to be sent to educate and assist potential registrants in determining if they needed to register. Two new registrations occurred as a result of the advisory letters, and three recipients responded that they did not meet the 'significant part of duties' threshold for registration set out in the Act. The remaining recipient had not replied as of March 31, 2012.

Communications with lobbyists to improve timeliness of reporting

In 2011-2012, my Office educated registrants who were late in filing their registrations. Each time my Office receives a registration that is late, an assessment is undertaken to determine the registrant's compliance history and the steps they will put in place to improve the timeliness of their reports in the future. My primary goal is to write the registrants and educate them about the timelines prescribed in the Lobbying Act to ensure that future reporting occurs within prescribed timeframes. This constitutes a warning, and the registrant is added to a monitoring list. Should a registrant file a subsequent registration outside of the prescribed timeframe, I may initiate an administrative review. These efforts to ensure that disclosures meet the timeframes set out in the Act contribute to Canadians' confidence in the information provided in the Registry.

Educating Public Office Holders

Federal public office holders, whether they are elected or appointed, have a key role to play in fostering a better understanding of the Lobbying Act and its requirements. When public office holders understand the requirements of the Act and Code, they can better contribute to recognizing the legitimacy of lobbying activities while ensuring a culture of compliance.

I regularly meet with senior federal officials and their management teams in departments and agencies across the federal public service. These sessions provide effective fora for sharing information relating to lobbying activities and discussing specific requirements of the Act. This year, I provided educational sessions to representatives from a range of federal institutions including: the Treasury Board Secretariat; the Prime Minister's Office; Shared Services Canada; the Office of the Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism); the Office of the Minister of State (Seniors); and the Privy Council Office.

I conducted a series of meetings with several of the ministers of the 20 most-lobbied government institutions. I met with the ministers of the following government institutions: Public Works and Government Services Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada, Intergovernmental Affairs, Treasury Board, Canadian Heritage, and Justice Canada. 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 for their institutions. In 2011-2012, my outreach efforts were directed towards specialized communities of public office holders. For instance, I met with the federal Interdepartmental Values and Ethics Network to provide information about the Act and answer questions.

I also met with the Deputy Minister/President of the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) to discuss how information on the Lobbying Act is delivered in the context of the various courses offered by the CSPS. Working with a Learning and Development specialist at the CSPS, all course materials relating to the Act were systematically reviewed and suggestions were offered for improvements. Members of my staff have served as guest speakers in the course "How Ottawa Works" and I hope to continue this relationship in the future.

Assisting Parliamentarians

As an independent Agent of Parliament, I report directly to both Houses of Parliament. I appear primarily before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics to report on my activities in administering the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct. In so doing, I endeavour to provide all necessary information to help parliamentarians understand the various elements of my mandate and allow them to effectively perform their oversight role. I appeared in September 2011, following the last general election, to outline my mandate and answer questions from the members.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics was also mandated this year to undertake a statutory review of the Lobbying Act. I appeared twice before the committee to explain my recommendations for amendments to the legislation and answer questions from the members to facilitate their review. The legislative review process is discussed in a later 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 critical for me to maintain a close connection with a network of provincial and international counterparts in order to share experiences and discuss concerns about the administration of our respective lobbying regimes.

Meetings of the Lobbyists Registrars and Commissioners of Canada provide a unique venue to discuss ways to address existing and emerging challenges in various lobbying jurisdictions. The group met twice this year, once in September 2011 and once in February 2012. My counterparts from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Quebec, as well as from the City of Toronto, and I shared views on the previous year's activities, discussed challenges related to the statutory review of the federal legislation, as well as approaches to compliance and enforcement under our respective legislation.

In February, representatives of the province of Saskatchewan's legislative Committee on Intergovernmental Affairs and Justice visited Ottawa as part of their study of selected lobbying legislation. The Committee has been tasked with developing recommendations for a lobbying regime in Saskatchewan. My Office coordinated meetings for them with my provincial counterparts. I also met with members of the Committee to discuss my experience in administering the federal lobbying regime.

I continue to be active on the international front. Specifically, in December 2011, I attended the annual Conference of the Council on Governmental Ethics Laws (COGEL) in Nashville, Tennessee. I participated on a Canada/U.S. panel and presented my perspective on key aspects of the Canadian federal lobbying regime. In January, I attended the International Conference on Probity and Transparency in Congress and in the Political Party System in Santiago, Chile, where I presented the Canadian perspective and shared my experience with respect to the lobbying legislation. I also met with senior Chilean government and business officials to discuss the Canadian lobbying regime. The result of both the conference and the discussions was a strong appreciation for the federal lobbying regime we have in Canada.

During their February visit to Canada, I met with members of the United Kingdom Parliamentary Public Administration Select Committee which is responsible for examining the effectiveness of business appointments of former public office holders. The Committee was particularly interested in learning more about the Canadian lobbying legislation, including my role and the provisions that apply to former designated public office holders with respect to post-employment measures.

Reaching Out to Canadians Through the Website

My website is a cost-effective tool to disseminate a broad range of information to lobbyists, public office holders, parliamentarians, media and the general public. This year, the website received 90,000 visits, resulting in almost 350,000 page views.

The educational material posted on my Office's website includes:

  • multimedia tutorials on the registration process;
  • PowerPoint presentations that highlight the key features of the Lobbying Act;
  • interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions explaining important requirements of the Act; and
  • guidance on the application of the rules under the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct.

An improved website was launched in February 2012, primarily to facilitate navigation by users. It gives more prominence to the Registry of Lobbyists. It is now easier for users to login, create an account orsearch for information on lobbying activities. Documents were reorganized within the website to make it easier for users to find information on the Act, the Code and related topics.

In addition, my website is now fully compliant with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). These guidelines ensure that websites are accessible to persons with disabilities, especially those with visual impairments.

My Office has already received positive feedback on the new website design and structure and I will continue to improve the site's content and navigation.