Saskatchewan’s Lobbyists Act (the “Act”), which is administered by the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, recently came into force on Aug. 23, 2016.
Saskatchewan’s Definition of Lobbying
Under the Act, not all meetings and communications are considered lobbying, nor is everyone who speaks to a public office holder about a specific topic considered a lobbyist. The Act defines lobbying as communications with a public office holder in an attempt to influence:
- the development of any legislative proposal;
- the introduction, passage, defeat or amendment of any Bill or resolution;
- the development or the enactment of any regulation;
- the development, establishment, amendment or termination of any program, policy, directive or guideline;
- the awarding, amendment or termination of any grant, contract or financial benefit;
- a decision by the Executive Council or a Minister of the Crown to transfer from the Crown for consideration all or part of, any interest in or asset of, any business, enterprise or institution that provides goods or services to the Crown or a government institution or to the public; and
- a decision by the Executive Council or a Minister of the Crown to have the private sector instead of the Crown provide goods and services to the Government.
Communications to arrange a meeting between a public office holder and any other individual for the purpose of attempting to influence that public office holder are also considered lobbying.
The Act also identifies activities that do not constitute lobbying. These include representations made to a:
- committee of the Legislative Assembly or to any body or person having jurisdiction or powers conferred by or pursuant to an Act, in proceedings that are matter of public record;
- public office holder by an individual on behalf of a person or organization with respect to the enforcement, interpretation or application of any Act or regulation with respect to that person or organization;
- public office holder by an individual on behalf of a person or organization with respect the implementation or administration of any program, policy, directive or guideline by the public office holder with respect to the person or organization; and
- public office holder by an individual on behalf of a person or organization in response to a request initiated by a public office holder for advice or comment.
The Act defines public office holder broadly to include:
- members of Executive Council and any individual on that member’s staff;
- members of the Legislative Assembly and any individual on that member’s staff;
- employees of a Ministry;
- persons appointed by the Lieutenant Governor in Council or members of the Executive Council;
- employees, officers, directors or members of a government institution.
Who are Lobbyists?
The Act requires companies and individuals attempting to influence the Saskatchewan government to register their lobbying activities online. Lobbying under the Act requires four components be present:
- a payment to the lobbyist;
- a form of communication;
- communications with a public office holder; and
- an attempt to influence one or more outcomes.
The Act sets out two types of lobbyists:
- Consultant lobbyist: An individual who, for payment, undertakes to lobby on behalf of a client; and
- In-house lobbyist: An employee, an officer, or a director of an organization, who is paid for performing his or her functions.
Some groups are exempt from the Act. These include: Universities, Métis and First Nations, Saskatchewan Urban and Municipalities Association, Rural municipalities, Saskatchewan Polytechnic, volunteer organizations and members of the public pursuing personal interests with Members of the Legislative Assembly.
As of Aug. 23, 2016, lobbyists that were already performing an undertaking were given a 30-day grace period to determine whether or not they need to register.
The thresholds for registering for each type of lobbyist is set out below:
- Consultant lobbyist
An undertaking to lobby is an agreement between a consultant lobbyist and a client (whether written or verbal) where the services the lobbyist will perform on behalf of the client includes lobbying. Once an undertaking has been agreed to, the lobbyist has ten days to register him/herself on the Lobbyist Registry and file details regarding the lobbying activities associated with that client.
- In-house lobbyist:
In-house lobbyists can work on a file for 100 hours annually before they are required to register their activities. This 100 hours includes all hours that other staff contribute to the file (such as interns, researchers, and administrative support). It also includes preparation time such as research, writing, photocopying, time spent arranging meetings and actual meetings, travel time to and from the organizations’ office where lobbying is located, and travel to the office of the public official.
Under the Act, an in-house lobbyist must register within 60 days after the 100 hour threshold has been met. However, to avoid missing deadlines and for ease of filing, the Registrar recommends that in-house lobbyists register at the commencement of their activities.
Content of the Lobbying Registration
When registering their lobbying activities, consultants and in-house lobbyists must file a return with the Lobbyist Registry.
A lobbying return shall include contact information for the lobbyist and client (or the organization they work for), specific details about the lobbying activities and whom they are lobbying, the techniques of communication that the lobbyist has used or expects to use to lobby, as well as timelines.
All lobbyists must update the information on their return within 30 days after the end of each six-month period. There is also a provision that if any material changes occur within that 6 month period (such as the decision to lobby an additional public official or change their address) then they must update their return within 30 days of that change.
When a consultant lobbyist completes all lobbying for their client, they must update their return on the Lobbyist Registry and notify the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists in writing within 30 days of completing all lobbying activities associated with a specific client.
Within 30 days after an individual named in a return as an in-house lobbyist ceases to be an in-house lobbyist for the organization named in the return, the designated filer shall: (a) inform the Registrar of the event; and (b) indicate the date on which the event occurred.
The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recognizes that staff other than designated filers may perform the registering and updating functions required of lobbyists. However, the responsibility for ensuring the information is accurate, true and has met the required deadlines rests solely with the lobbyist.
Penalties and Sanctions
The Act gives the Registrar of Lobbyists the power to conduct investigations and assess an administrative penalty to lobbyists who do not comply with the Act.
Penalties up to $25,000 and prohibitions on lobbying can be assessed by the Registrar for the first offence. A fine of not more than $100,000 can be assessed for a second or subsequent offence.
If a person is convicted of an offence under the Act, the Registrar may make an order prohibiting the person from lobbying for a period of not more than two years if:
- it is in the public interest taking into account the gravity of the offence; and
- the number of previous convictions or administrative penalties imposed on the person who committed the offence.