British Columbia voters have given the provincial government a fresh mandate. While the government was re-elected, there are many new MLAs and a new Cabinet will soon be sworn in. There may be some important changes among Deputy Ministers as well. With new faces in Victoria and a renewed mandate for government, you may be planning to meet or otherwise communicate with these new decision-makers. It is a good time to be mindful of the requirements of British Columbia’s Lobbyist Registration Act.
The Lobbyist Registration Act requires the registration of lobbying activities. Failure to register can result in fines of up to $25,000 or being charged with an offence. Furthermore, an allegation that lobbying has occurred without registration will often leave the perception that something is being hidden, thereby hurting your organization's public image. You need to know when to register.
- Do you plan to communicate orally or in writing with a “public office holder”, including an MLA, Minister, their staff, an employee of the provincial government, or a person appointed by Cabinet or a Minister to any office?
- Is the purpose of the communication to promote a change to the law, a program or policy, or to influence the awarding of a contract or financial benefit or the transfer of an interest in a government enterprise?
- Is somebody being paid to undertake the communication, including an employee of your organization?
If you answered yes to all three of these questions, the requirement to register may be triggered.
If you hire a third party to arrange a meeting with government or to communicate with government on your behalf for the purposes in question 2 above, that third party is likely to be considered a lobbyist and required to register. If your organization employs staff who together spend 100 or more hours per year communicating with government for the purposes in question 2, including the time preparing the communication materials, your organization likely needs to register.
There are exceptions to the requirement to register, but the Lobbyist Registration Act does have broad application. While most people would assume they are “lobbying” if trying to influence ministers and senior public servants, the definition of public office holder is broad enough to include staff of a health authority or a Crown corporation. The combination of who you are communicating with and the purpose of the communication are the critical factors.