This Year

2,120 active registrations

2,629 active lobbyists

83 advisory opinions issued

Legislation

  • Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998
  • Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010 (applies to consultant lobbyists only)

Developments

The full impact of amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 was felt this year as the Office saw a significant increase in all aspects of its work: compliance checks, registry volumes (both the number of lobbyists and the number of registrations), requests for advisory opinions and investigations.

The Office hired a second inquiries officer to assist in reviewing the large volume of registrations that are received. Each registration is meticulously reviewed for complete, accurate and up-to-date information, with almost 40 per cent of registrations returned to the lobbyist because the information submitted is incomplete or incorrect. The Inquiries Officers provide lobbyists with assistance on how to create an account on the registry, and how to submit a complete registration. They also provide information on other areas, such as how to update a registration when a senior officer leaves an organization or when the subject matter of the lobbying activity has changed. Feedback from lobbyists has been helpful and has resulted in amendments to the registration forms to clarify some of the questions.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Act: it was introduced on October 6, 1998, and proclaimed on January 15, 1999. In administering the lobbyists registry, the goal of the Office has always been to encourage compliance with the Act. As such, communications efforts initiated in 2016–2017 continued this year. As new resources were developed, such as guidance on political activity, emails were sent to all lobbyists and their primary contacts. The Office also uses Twitter to provide regular updates about registry activity, and to remind followers about the various compliance requirements and tools that apply.

The Office has begun preparations for changes to the registry that will be required because of the increase in the number of MPPs — to 124 from 107. They have also undertaken a review of all resources to ensure that they are clear and understandable for lobbyists, and for the public office holders with whom they will be communicating.

The Review Process

Registrations are reviewed to ensure the information is clear and accurate. The goal is that a member of the public would be able to understand who the registrant is and what he or she is trying to accomplish through lobbying.

The Office reviews every line of every initial registration, registration renewal, registration change and registration termination before each is published. Email acknowledgements are sent once the registration has been published.

If the registration is incomplete or the information it contains is incorrect or vague, it is refused and reset to draft. The Office sends an email to the lobbyist or senior officer outlining the deficiencies. The registration must be amended and resubmitted within a prescribed time frame. This is a time consuming but necessary process to achieve openness and transparency.

This year, almost 40 per cent of the registrations submitted were incomplete or required additional information or clarification. This is an improvement from last year, when half of the registrations were reset to draft. The majority of the registrations either had insufficient information about the lobbyist's goals and the intended outcomes of the lobbying activities, or lacked up-to-date information, such as government funding.

Advisory Opinions

In keeping with the push for compliance, the Office saw a dramatic increase in advisory opinions issued to lobbyists, from nine last year to 83 this year.

The issues raised in these requests continue to be complex and nuanced and take considerable time to prepare

The Integrity Commissioner, as Lobbyists Registrar, provides guidance about a lobbyist's conduct or any other matter related to the enforcement, interpretation or application of the Act.

The opinions are confidential because they are specific to a lobbyist's particular circumstance. The issues raised in these requests continue to be complex and nuanced and take considerable time to prepare. Some of the common issues raised included:

  • details about registration requirements; what types of activities constituted “lobbying” under the Act;
  • clarification of the information required on a registration;
  • the application or calculation of the 50-hour-per-year lobbying threshold to certain in-house lobbyists and their organizations;
  • clarification about the application of the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010 for consultant lobbyists;
  • guidance about gifts, and whether a lobbyist is placing a public officer holder in a real or potential conflict of interest; and
  • political activity.

Gift Project

Following on the 2016–2017 consultation with MPPs, ministers' staff and lobbyists, the Office developed resources to assist in understanding the rules around offering gifts, fees or benefits to public office holders. The Act states that a lobbyist cannot place a public office holder, such as an MPP, minister, ministers' staff or employee of the Crown, in a real or potential conflict of interest. It pulls the definition of conflict of interest from the Members' Integrity Act, 1994 (MIA), which prohibits the acceptance of gifts or benefits except under specific circumstances. This means that a lobbyist who offers a gift or benefit to a public officer holder may be placing the recipient in a real or potential conflict of interest. It is important to note that gifts and benefits include invitations for a meal, transportation and tickets to community or sports events. Additionally, it is possible for a lobbyist to be found to be in breach of the conflict of interest rule even if the public office holder refuses the gift or benefit.

The resources were emailed directly to all registered consultant lobbyists, as well as to the senior officers of profit and not-for-profit entities that have a lobbyist registration. The materials were posted on the website and distributed through Twitter and at meetings where the Commissioner spoke with lobbyists.

Registration Activity

As of March 31, 2018, there were 2,120 active registrations on the registry and 2,629 active lobbyists.

March 31, 2017 March 31, 2018
Total Registrations 1,854 2,120
Registrations by Type
Consultant 1,453 1,691
In-House (Organizations) 279 291
In-House (Persons and Partnerships) 122 138

Compliance and Investigations

The focus has been on ensuring consistency in the manner in which compliance and investigation activities are conducted

The first full year with investigation powers saw the Office further develop and refine its policies and procedures. The focus has been on ensuring consistency in the manner in which compliance and investigation activities are conducted, while at the same time allowing for a certain amount of flexibility so that matters can be dealt with efficiently and effectively.

This began with a proactive approach to flagging registrations that may not be in compliance with the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998, particularly in the area of timelines. Under the Act, lobbyists have prescribed timelines to submit initial registrations, renew registrations, provide updated information and terminate registrations once the lobbying has ended. These timelines range from 10 days to two months.

In order to ensure compliance while focusing investigative resources on more serious non-compliance, the Office developed an informal resolution framework to deal with minor instances of non-compliance. An example of a minor breach would be missing a deadline by a short period of time.

Informal resolution can take different forms, including:

Currently, informal resolution is most often applied for minor instances of non-compliance by lobbyists or senior officers who do not have a history of non-compliance.

When a registration is identified as being potentially non-compliant, it undergoes an initial review which may include seeking to confirm or clarify certain information with the registrant. At this stage, the Office may determine that the matter can be closed immediately because it is not one of non-compliance. If potential non-compliance is identified after the initial review, minor breaches proceed to informal resolution and more serious matters undergo assessment as potential investigations.

Minor breaches proceed to informal resolution and more serious matters undergo assessment as potential investigations

This year, the Office identified 283 instances of potential non-compliance and dealt with more than 80 per cent of these matters through initial review or the informal resolution framework. The remaining matters were referred for investigation assessment.

Compliance Reviews in 2017–2018

46

referred for investigation assessment

68

closed at initial review

170

resolved informally

Investigations are conducted into allegations of non-compliance that are more serious, such as a substantial delay in meeting a timeline or placing a public office holder in a potential or real conflict of interest. When determining whether a matter should be investigated, the Commissioner considers several factors, including:

There was a focus this year on ensuring that any person under investigation understands the process

There was a focus this year on ensuring that any person under investigation understands the process. To that end, the Office provides a notice to the person who is the subject of an investigation (the “respondent”) that explains the process. In most cases, the Office will use this as an opportunity to request documents and information from the respondent. The information is reviewed, and a request for further information may be made. At that stage, the respondent and other relevant witnesses may be interviewed.

After the fact-gathering portion of the investigation has been completed, the Commissioner, as Lobbyists Registrar, will decide if he believes the respondent has not complied with the Act. If the Commissioner does not have that belief, then the investigation ends, and the respondent is notified of this decision. However, if the Commissioner believes the respondent did not comply with the Act, then the respondent will be notified and given an opportunity to make written submissions about whether there has been non-compliance, and whether a penalty should be imposed. The Commissioner then decides whether there was non-compliance, and if so, whether a penalty should be imposed. A decision with the Commissioner's findings is then sent to the respondent. Concluded investigations are summarized in the annual report.

Anyone can report potential issues of non-compliance by completing the “Information Form: Compliance with the Lobbyists Registration Act,” which is available on the Office website.

Investigations Activity

2016-2017 2017-2018
Investigations carried from previous year n/a 2
Investigations commenced 3 23
Investigations concluded 1 4
Investigations resumed 0 0
Matters refused for investigation 13 91
Matters referred to another person or body 0 0
Matters remaining under assessment at fiscal year-end n/a 10
  • 1 Generally, matters that the Commissioner decides not to investigate will be dealt with through the informal resolution framework in order to ensure future compliance with the Act. blank

Investigation Summaries

The Integrity Commissioner, as Lobbyists Registrar, concluded four investigations this year.

Lobbying using public funds and late filing of a return (consultant lobbyist)

An investigation was conducted to determine whether a consultant lobbyist failed to comply with section 3.1 of the Act by undertaking to lobby on behalf of a client where:

  • the client is prohibited from engaging a lobbyist to provide lobbyist services using public funds or other revenues under section 4 of the Broader Public Sector Accountability Act, 2010; and
  • the compensation of the consultant lobbyist is to be paid from public funds or other revenues that the client is prohibited from using.

There was a further allegation that the consultant lobbyist failed to file a return not later than 10 days after commencing performance of an undertaking, as required by subsection 4(1) of the Act.

Following the investigation, the Commissioner found that the respondent had not lobbied and, therefore, section 3.1 and subsection 4(1) of the Act did not apply. Accordingly, the Commissioner found that he did not believe that the consultant lobbyist contravened the Act. The investigation ceased, and the matter was concluded.

Late filing of a return (consultant lobbyist)

An investigation was conducted to determine whether a consultant lobbyist failed to file a return not later than 10 days after commencing performance of an undertaking, as required by subsection 4(1) of the Act.

Following the investigation, the Commissioner found that while the respondent was lobbying, it was as an employee rather than as a consultant, and that as a result the respondent was not required to register under subsection 4(1) of the Act. The respondent's agreements with the corporation, which had been identified as the client on the registration at issue, referred to an employment relationship. It was determined that the terms of the agreements were more consistent with those of an employment relationship, rather than a consulting agreement. Accordingly, the Commissioner found that he did not have a belief that the respondent contravened subsection 4(1) of the Act. The Commissioner provided direction to the respondent and the corporation to ensure that the lobbyist registry accurately reflected the respondent's lobbying activities, and he closed the investigation.

Late filing of two returns (consultant lobbyist)

The Commissioner conducted an investigation into two separate matters relating to a consultant lobbyist to determine if, in each instance, the lobbyist failed to file a return not later than 10 days after commencing performance of an undertaking for a client, as required by subsection 4(1) of the Act.

Following the investigation, the Commissioner found in each matter that the lobbyist breached the Act because he had registered 105 days late in one matter and 84 days late in the other. Although the Commissioner found that the non-compliance was serious given the length of the delay and in one matter, the number of lobbying activities in which the lobbyist engaged while unregistered, he decided not to impose a penalty against the lobbyist because:

  • the lobbyist had no prior incidents of non-compliance or convictions; and
  • the Commissioner was not of the opinion that it was in the public interest to impose a penalty. In this respect, the Commissioner found that the lobbyist cooperated fully with the investigation, was remorseful and made admissions against the lobbyist's own interest during the investigation and had taken steps to ensure compliance in the future.

Late filing of a return (consultant lobbyist)

The Commissioner conducted an investigation to determine if a consultant lobbyist failed to file a return not later than 10 days after commencing performance of an undertaking for a client, as required by subsection 4(1) of the Act.

Following the investigation, the Commissioner found that the lobbyist breached the Act because the registration was 140 days late. Although the Commissioner found that the noncompliance was serious given the length of the delay and the number of lobbying activities in which the lobbyist engaged while unregistered, he decided not to impose a penalty against the lobbyist because:

  • the lobbyist had no prior incidents of non-compliance or convictions; and
  • the Commissioner was not of the opinion that it was in the public interest to impose a penalty. In this respect, the Commissioner found that the lobbyist cooperated fully with the investigation, was remorseful and made admissions against the lobbyist's own interest during the investigation and also volunteered to receive training from the Office.

Top 10 Lists of Lobbyist Targets and Subjects

Subjects

2016-2017 2017-2018
Economic Development and Trade 708 835
Environment 614 704
Health 534 673
Taxation and Finance 478 555
Industry 439 547
Infrastructure 441 524
Research and Innovation 411 509
Energy 445 508
Science and Technology 336 437
Transportation 360 419

Ministries

2016-2017 2017-2018
Ministry of Finance 906 1,021
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change 609 651
Ministry of Economic Development and Growth 438 640
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care 502 606
Treasury Board Secretariat 460 582
Ministry of Energy 408 467
Ministry of Transportation 349 396
Ministry of Government and Consumer Services 307 362
Ministry of Infrastructure 247 320
Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science 250 319

Ministers' Offices

2016-2017 2017-2018
Office of the Premier and Cabinet Office 828 1,195
Office of the Minister of Finance 633 895
Office of the Minister of Economic Development and Growth 478 691
Office of the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change 476 597
Office of the President of the Treasury Board 418 579
Office of the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care 351 544
Office of the Minister of Energy 299 417
Office of the Minister of Infrastructure 247 372
Office of the Minister of Transportation 267 352
Office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs 234 329

MPPs by Riding

2016-2017 2017-2018
Office of the Member for Prince Edward–Hastings 282 513
Office of the Member for Simcoe North 301 507
Office of the Member for Elgin–Middlesex–London 300 503
Office of the Member for Nickel Belt 294 499
Office of the Member for Barrie 286 483
Office of the Member for Hamilton Centre 285 483
Office of the Member for Nipissing 282 479
Office of the Member for Beaches–East York 290 472
Office of the Member for Kitchener–Conestoga 285 471
Office of the Member for Trinity–Spadina 288 470

Agencies

2016-2017 2017-2018
Independent Electricity System Operator 159 201
Ontario Energy Board 123 134
Financial Services Commission of Ontario 77 97
Metrolinx 77 78
Workplace Safety and Insurance Board 73 73
Ontario Infrastructure and Lands Corporation (Infrastructure Ontario) 68 69
Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario 56 62
Liquor Control Board of Ontario 32 53
Local Health Integration Network – Toronto Central 40 53
Local Health Integration Network – Central 36 49