It’s been a busy summer for lobbying law in Canada. With the recent enactment of lobbying legislation in New Brunswick, almost all Canadian jurisdictions now have some form of lobbying law, other than the three territories and Prince Edward Island (lobbying legislation was proposed in the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island in late December). Many municipalities have also now begun establishing lobbying regimes, the most recent being the City of Winnipeg.
In early June 2017, the terms of both the federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Mary Dawson and the federal Commissioner of Lobbying, Karen Shepherd, were extended by six months. Both commissioners’ terms had previously been extended. Following the announcement to extend both commissioners’ terms, the government posted new “notices of opportunity” online, inviting applications for the two positions.
The New Brunswick Lobbyists’ Registration Act came into force in April 2017 and established a July 1, 2017 deadline for existing lobbyists to register in the province. The deadline has now passed, and in early July 2017, New Brunswick’s long-awaited lobbyist registry was published online for public review. The list contains about 50 names. However, due to technical difficulties with people registering online, the New Brunswick Integrity Commissioner announced that the registration deadline would be extended by three months to October 1, 2017. For more information, please see our April 2017 Blakes Bulletin: New Lobbying Legislation in Force in New Brunswick.
In Saskatchewan, the Lobbyists Act came into force in August 2016, requiring that consultant lobbyists disclose their activities immediately and publicly, while corporations’ in-house lobbyists would only be required to register if they spent more than 100 hours annually lobbying. This two-tier system has raised concerns among government representatives and legal experts in the province and most recently, Saskatchewan’s Conflict of Interest Commissioner and Registrar of Lobbyists noted that “he is open to considering a recommendation for changes that would force everyone planning to lobby the provincial government to register in a public database, and to lower a threshold that allows corporations to influence policy without leaving a paper trail.” To date, no formal recommendations have been made. For more information, please see our August 2016 Blakes Bulletin: Saskatchewan Lobbying Legislation Proclaimed Into Force.
The City of Winnipeg’s voluntary lobbyist registry was approved by council earlier this year and became operational in June 2017. The purpose of the registry is to provide transparency on lobbying activities in the City of Winnipeg. Although lobbyists are not required by legislation to register their activities, registration on a voluntary basis is encouraged in order to enhance the transparency and integrity of business conducted. In addition to approving the voluntary lobbyist registry, the City of Winnipeg council also voted in favour of the Integrity Commissioner asking the province to amend legislation to grant the city the power to enforce the lobbyist registry.
In Ontario, the City of Toronto’s Municipal Code, chapter 140, Lobbying, was amended in early July 2017 to include a limitation period for proceedings under the chapter. The new chapter provides that a proceeding must be commenced in respect of an offence under chapter 140 (i.e., relating to lobbying) within two years from the time when the subject matter of the proceeding arose.
Also in Ontario, the Hamilton city council voted in mid-June 2017 to maintain its lobbyist registry and to study the feasibility of preventing former councillors from doing paid lobbying work at city hall for two years after leaving office. No further action has been taken since the vote.