Saskatchewan has now joined a number of other jurisdictions in Canada that have legislation governing the registration of persons who engage in “lobbying” activities. In particular, The Lobbyists Act (Saskatchewan) (the “Act“) was proclaimed into force on August 23, 2016, more than two years after it received Royal Assent. The Act outlines a number of new obligations for lobbyists in Saskatchewan.
The Act is intended to enhance the integrity and accountability of government by fostering openness and transparency about who is influencing decisions made by public office holders. The Act accomplishes this by requiring all individuals who are paid for, and employees whose work includes, “lobbying” functions to register their lobbying activities on the Saskatchewan Lobbyist Registry (the “Registry“).
What is lobbying?
The term “lobby” is broadly defined by the Act, but generally includes communications with “public office holders” in an attempt to influence, including:
- in an attempt to influence legislation or regulations, programs, policies, directives, guidelines, grants, contracts, financial benefits, or the provision of services and goods; and
- to arrange meetings between public office holders and other individuals either generally or for the purposes of attempting to influence the above-noted matters.
Who are public office holders?
The definition of “public office holders” includes various public officials in Saskatchewan (for example, members of the Executive Council and their staff, members of the Legislative Assembly and their staff, ministry employees, and government institution employees, officers, directors, or members).
Who needs to register?
Both “in-house lobbyists” and “consultant lobbyists” are required to be registered under the Act:
- In-house Lobbyists – an organization’s paid directors, officers, and employees may be required to be registered as “in-house lobbyists” to the extent that they engage in lobbying activities; and
- Consultant Lobbyists – persons undertaking to lobby on behalf of others for payment may be required to be registered as “consultant lobbyists”.
The Act outlines various exemptions from registration. Some notable exemptions include:
- Number of Hours – individuals who participate, alone or together with other individuals in an organization, in less than 100 annual hours of lobbying activities or duties to lobby are not considered to be “in-house lobbyists” and are not required to be registered.
- Individuals Acting in Certain Capacities –
- certain individuals will not be considered to be consultant lobbyists or in-house lobbyists when acting in their official capacity (for example, members of the Legislative Assembly or Executive Council and their staff, officers and employees, and government institution employees, officers, directors and members); and
- the Act does not apply to a number of persons when acting in their official capacity (for example, members of the House of Commons of Canada, or local authority officers, directors or employees).
- Exempt Submissions – the Act does not apply to certain submissions (for example, submissions made in proceedings of public record to committees of the Legislative Assembly).
When is registration required?
If a lobbyist is currently required to be registered under the Act, the Act requires the lobbyist to register within 30 days of the Act coming into force.
What are the consequences for not registering?
Failures to comply with the Act can lead to investigations, administrative penalties or other fines of up to $100,000, sanctions, and publication of any offences or sanctions.
What is required to register?
Organizations that employ in-house lobbyists are required to file information returns on their behalf – one initially (within 30 days of the Act coming into force, or within 60 days of an individual becoming an in-house lobbyist) and then semi-annually thereafter. Consultant lobbyists are required to file their own information returns – one initially (within 30 days of the Act coming into force, or within 10 days after entering into an “undertaking”) and then semi-annually thereafter.
The Act includes prescribed forms and requirements for the contents of information returns, as well as for information that is required to be filed in addition to returns. Registration can be completed online through the Registry.
Who oversees the Registry and where can I find it?
The Saskatchewan Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists (the “Registrar“) administers the Act and Registry. The Registry was launched earlier this week in conjunction with the Act coming into force. The Registrar’s website is available at https://www.sasklobbyistregistry.ca/. The Registrar’s website contains helpful information about the Act and its requirements, and permits lobbyists to register online. Once lobbyists are registered, citizens and other stakeholders will be able to search the Registry to see what issues or subjects may be the object of lobbyists and which public office holders have been lobbied. You can read the Registrar’s news release here.
What are next steps for organizations and individuals?
Organizations that engage individuals who may be engaged in “lobbying” or individuals who may be engaged in “lobbying” for payment in Saskatchewan should consider the application of and requirements under the Act. Organizations and individuals are encouraged to complete this assessment quickly, given the short timeline within which registration is required pursuant to the Act. Organizations and individuals may wish to engage legal counsel to assist them with assessing these matters in order to ensure compliance with the Act.