Canada’s lobbying landscape is rapidly changing — a number of amendments have recently come into force or been proposed that revise lobbying, election finance and conflict of interest requirements in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Additionally, the cities of Edmonton and Vaughan have also changed their lobbying registration requirements.
Bill 11, Lobbyists Amendment Act, 2018 (Bill 11), was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of Alberta on April 11, 2018 and proposed a number of amendments to the Lobbyists Act. Among these proposed amendments is the reduction of the threshold for in-house lobbyists from 100 hours to 50 hours to match that of Ontario, and the inclusion in that amount of time spent preparing for, and communicating with public office holders. Bill 11 further proposes to add grassroots lobbying to the definition of lobbying under the Lobbyists Act.
Other notable proposed amendments under Bill 11 include restrictions on:
- Contingency fees for consultant lobbyists consistent with those in place in a number of other jurisdictions (previously Alberta simply required disclosure)
- Consultant and organizational lobbyists giving or promising any gift or benefit to a public office holder that they lobby or intend to lobby, which the public office holder is not allowed to accept or that, if given, would place the public office holder in a conflict of interest.
Section 49 of Bill 3, Election Amendment Act, 2017 came into force on March 5, 2018, and introduced new reporting requirements for third-party advertisers under the B.C. Election Act. Specifically, third-party advertisers that sponsor election advertising having a total value greater than C$10,000 must file an initial disclosure report with the chief electoral officer within 14 days of the third-party advertiser sponsoring a message that, when transmitted, brings the total value of the election advertising to more than C$10,000. This new reporting requirement fits within previous changes to third-party advertising that were rolled out in B.C. over the last year. For more information on these changes, please see our February 2018 Blakes Bulletin: Election Finances: Recent Reforms in British Columbia, Manitoba and New Brunswick.
In addition, Bill 8, Lobbyists Registration Amendment Act (Bill 8) is set to come into force on May 1, 2018, and will amend the B.C. Lobbyists Registration Act. Among other things, Bill 8 introduces a post-employment lobbying restriction for former public office holders in B.C. Under the restriction, former public office holders will no longer be permitted to lobby for a period of two years after they cease to hold their office. A former public office holder is defined under Bill 8 as including, among others, former members of the Executive Council; individuals formerly employed in the former member’s former office (other than administrative support staff); former parliamentary secretaries; and individuals who formerly occupied a senior executive position in a ministry. The B.C. lobbying registrar will, however, upon request, have the authority to exempt a person from this restriction if it is in the public interest.
Bill 11, Transparency in Election Commitments Act received royal assent on March 16, 2018. While not yet in force, the bill introduces a regime that would regulate election commitments made by political parties. An “election commitment” would include a statement that, due to its nature, leads electors to reasonably expect that if the party forms the government, it will implement the policy, program, service or initiative referred to in the statement.
The purpose of the new election commitment legislation is to increase transparency with respect to election commitments, hold registered political parties accountable for election commitments they make, and ensure that electors obtain information on financial implications of the election commitments. Under the new regime, a registered political party would be required to file and publish a disclosure statement for each election commitment it makes in respect of implementing: a new or expanded program or service; an expenditure reduction measure; a new or expanded revenue program; or a revenue reduction measure. Such disclosure statements must, in some cases, set out the cost estimate or financial implications in respect of the election commitment. The disclosure statement would be publicly available and failure to file such a statement would result in monetary penalties.
Prince Edward Island
Bill 5, An Act to Amend the Conflict of Interest Act (No. 2) (Bill 5), was introduced on April 5, 2018, in the Legislative Assembly of P.E.I. and proposed various amendments to the P.E.I. Conflict of Interest Act. Among these amendments, Bill 5 proposes to reduce the disclosure threshold for gifts and benefits given to public office holders from C$500 to C$200. Bill 5 also includes proposed amendments regarding private interests of a member. Currently, the P.E.I. Conflict of Interest Act provides that no member will use their office to seek to influence a decision made, or to be made, by another person to further the member’s private interest or improperly further another person’s private interest. Bill 5 proposes to add a new section to the P.E.I. legislation that would set out circumstances in which a decision is or is not considered to further private interest of a member or another person.
As of January 1, 2018, lobbying activities in the City of Vaughan are required to be registered. This change comes just over a year after the City of Vaughan established a voluntary lobbyist registry. The new mandatory registration requirement is intended to ensure that all City of Vaughan business is open and transparent, that businesses are treated fairly and that citizens continue to have access to their local leaders.
In February 2018, the mayor’s office in Edmonton launched a voluntarily implemented lobbyist registry for 2017-2021. The purpose of the registry is to contribute to increasing Edmontonians’ confidence in the integrity of the local government decision-making process, and to promote government transparency and accountability. Entities will be considered lobbyists if they wish to meet with the mayor or the mayor’s office staff outside of a formal public meeting with the intent of influencing or changing an existing City of Edmonton program or policy; or an upcoming or future committee or city council decision. As of March 2018, 61 organizations were listed on the registry for the period of October 2017 to March 2018.