The City of Toronto has changed its rules around the lobbying of public office holders. These recent changes include new rules for consultant lobbyists and the information they must disclose regarding their clients, conditions on a lobbyist’s registration, and authorizing the Lobbyist Registrar to impose temporary bans on lobbying for non-compliance with the City’s Lobbying By-law.

Lobbyists required to disclose who has “significant control” of the client

When a consultant lobbyist registers to lobby a public office holder they must now disclose the name and address of any “person with significant control” of the client. This change is particularly important in the real estate and land development context where the use of holding companies is prevalent. “Person with significant control” has been defined under the Lobbying By-law to include:

  • Any person or trustee who holds shares or voting rights that comprise 25 percent or more of a corporation, partnership, coalition or organization;
  • Any person that has the right to exercise or actually exercises significant influence or control of a corporation, partnership, coalition or organization;
  • Any trustee of a trust that has the right to exercise or actually exercises significant influence or control of a corporation, partnership, coalition or organization;
  • Any person that has the right to exercise or actually exercises significant influence or control over a trustee who holds shares or voting rights that comprise 25 percent or more of a corporation, partnership, coalition or organization; or
  • Any person who holds the right, directly or indirectly, to appoint or remove a majority of the board of directors of a corporation, partnership, coalition or organization.

“Coalition” is an undefined term; however, an interpretation bulletin released by the Lobbyist Registrar at the time of these changes states the Registrar interprets the word to mean “a group or alliance of individuals or entities, including corporations or organizations, formed with a common purpose or for common action.” The same interpretation bulletin states the Registrar expects consultant lobbyists to take “reasonable steps” to obtain the required information about their clients.

Temporary bans on communicating with public office holders

Failure to comply with these disclosure requirements, or any other breach of the Lobbying By-law, may now result in a temporary ban from communicating with public office holders. Bans on communication with public office holders range from:

  • One month for the first breach;
  • Two months for the second breach; and
  • Up to a period of not more than two years for the third breach of the Lobbying By-law.

Before the Registrar decides to ban a lobbyist, the changes require the Registrar to “have regard to” whether the ban will promote compliance with the regulations. If the Registrar believes a person has not complied with the Lobbying By-law then the person shall be informed of the alleged contravention, the reason why a contravention is believed to have occurred, and shall be provided with the opportunity to make a written response to the alleged contravention within 15 days of being notified by the Registrar’s belief. The Registrar shall “have regard to any response provided” by the person before imposing a ban on communication. If a ban is handed down, then the Registrar must inform the person of the suspension, the reason for it, and notify the person of their right to request a reconsideration of the suspension within 30 days of receiving their suspension notice. The suspension shall not take effect until the later of the expiry of the 30 days to request a reconsideration (if no request is made), the date of the Registrar’s decision on the reconsideration (if one is made within the mandated time period), and if the Registrar is made aware of the start of proceedings to challenge the decision to ban, the date the challenge is withdrawn, dismissed, or resolved.

Not every breach of the Lobbying By-law will result in a ban. An interpretation bulletin released together with these changes provides examples of the types of conduct that may result in a ban. Suspensions may occur where:

  • There have been multiple breaches of the Lobbying By-law;
  • The lobbyist has failed to comply with previously given advice, warnings, or the imposition of conditions on registration; or
  • If the breach in question is egregious.

Conditions on registering as a lobbyist

Finally, if the Registrar finds that requirements of the Lobbying By-law have not been met, it may impose conditions on a lobbyist’s registration, continued registration, and renewal. Those conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • A requirement to attend training and other educational courses;
  • A requirement to respond to communications from the Lobbyist Registrar in a specified time period;
  • A requirement to refrain from communication with specified public office holders on specified topics; or
  • Any other condition that the Lobbyist Registrar determines appropriate.

Pursuant to an interpretation bulletin on the subject, if the Registrar concludes conditions on registration should be imposed then it shall inform the lobbyist in writing of the proposed findings, the conditions proposed to be imposed, the reasons for the findings and the conditions, and it shall provide the lobbyist with the opportunity to make a written response within 15 days of receipt of the Registrar’s communication.