On October 20, 2010, the Ontario Minister of Health and Long Term Care introduced proposed legislation entitled the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010 (Bill 122) that, in part, prohibits certain public sector organizations from hiring consultant lobbyists and paying them with public funds.
Under the proposed legislation, a lobbyist is an individual who is paid to lobby on behalf of a client. A lobbyist may be a government relations practitioner, lawyer or other professional who provides lobbying services to clients for a fee. This definition corresponds to the definition of a “consultant lobbyist” under the Ontario Lobbyist Registration Act, 1998. The proposed legislation does not include “in-house lobbyists” that perform government relations tasks as part of their official duties.
The proposed legislation would apply to classified agencies, such as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, provincially-owned electricity corporations, large broader public sector organizations such as hospitals, school boards, universities, community colleges and every other publicly-funded organization that receives more than $10 million in government funding.
This Bulletin summarizes those parts of the Bill 122 that impact consultant lobbyists and the public sector organizations subject to the provisions of the proposed legislation.
KEY FEATURES OF BILL 122 AFFECTING CONSULTANT LOBBYISTS
The Bill is divided into 10 parts that attempt to increase financial accountability to broadly defined public sector organizations in Ontario.
Part II of the Bill outlines the new restrictions on consultant lobbyists. The main thrust of this part of the Bill is captured in section 4, where it is stated that no organization shall engage a consultant lobbyist to provide consultant lobbyist services where the compensation is paid from public funds or from revenues generated by the organization. Consultant lobbying services include attempting to influence legislation, regulations, policy, programs, the awarding of grants or other financial benefits and the arranging of meetings with public office holders on behalf of third parties.
The application of these restrictions on consultant lobbyists include: every agency of the government of Ontario, every designated broader public sector organization, Hydro One, Ontario Power Generation, Ontario Power Authority, Independent Electricity System Operator and other organizations that are provided for in regulations. The definition of “designated broader public sector organization” includes:
- School boards
- Colleges of applied arts and technology and other post secondary institutions
- Children’s aid societies
- Community care access corporations
- Corporations controlled by these public sector organizations that exist for purposes of purchasing goods and services for these organizations
- Organizations that receive public funds of $10 million or more annually from the Ontario government.
The Bill also excludes a number of organizations from the definition of “publically funded organization”. These include:
- Ministries of the government
- Office of the Lieutenant Governor
- Certain local boards as defined in the Municipal Act, 2001 and the City of T oronto Act, 2006
- A board of health under the Health Protection and Promotion Act
- Subject to regulations, profit seeking organizations
- Long-term care homes
The Bill also makes some transitional provisions for public sector organizations to meet existing contractual obligations to consultant lobbyists (using public funds) for a period of time after the legislation comes into force.
Another important feature of the Bill is the provision in section 4(4) that no organization captured by the restrictions on the use of consultant lobbyists shall, “provide public funds or other revenues that may not be used for the purpose, to any person or entity, for the purpose of that person or entity engaging a lobbyist to provide lobbying services to the organization”.
Part VI outlines how hospitals and other health care and public sector organizations shall make reports on complying with the prohibition on the use of consultant lobbyists using public funds under various directives issued by the Minister of Health and Long Term Care. Regulations in the Bill provide the Minister additional scope for compliance reporting guidelines and the contents of compliance reports.
AMENDMENT OF THE LOBBYIST REGISTRATION ACT, 1998
Bill 122 makes amendments to various aspects of the Lobbyist Registration Act, 1998 to ensure consultant lobbyists registrations are compliant with the new restrictions on lobbying. This includes changing the definition of “public office holder” to include officers, directors and employees of: Hydro One, Ontario Power Authority, Ontario Power Generation, and the Independent Electricity System Operator.
In addition, the amendments include requirements to disclose information that confirm consultant lobbyists have not been retained by a client that is restricted by Bill 122 and that the consultant lobbyist is not being paid with public funds or other revenues not permitted under Bill 122.
NEXT STEPS FOR BILL 122
The Bill will go to second reading in late October and then be referred to a Standing Committee of the Legislature for public comment. The government anticipates moving the Bill quickly through this process to proclaim into law by the end of 2010.