Guidance for Lobbyists on Political Activity
Lobbyists are permitted to take part in political activity; however it is important to undertake this work with a complete understanding of how that might affect the ability to lobby in the future. If in doubt, always contact the Office of the Integrity Commissioner to request an Advisory Opinion.
Answers to some frequently asked questions are below.
Involvement in Political Activity
Can I work or volunteer on an election campaign?
Yes, however, you should be aware that section 3.4 of the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 prohibits lobbyists from placing public office holders in a position of real or potential conflict of interest. As such, depending on your interaction with a candidate, your ability to lobby may be restricted. This could apply both before the election if the candidate is a current public office holder and after the election if the candidate remains or becomes a public office holder.
The Integrity Commissioner, as Lobbyists Registrar, can provide Advisory Opinions to lobbyists based on fact-specific scenarios. Please contact the Office at Lobbyist.Mail@oico.on.ca to request an Advisory Opinion.
Can I donate to a campaign in a personal capacity?
Yes. The Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 does not prohibit political contributions to a party. However, political contributions are regulated under the Election Finances Act (e.g. who may make contributions, in what amount, etc.) so lobbyists may wish to consult Elections Ontario for further information.
Am I required to amend my registration(s) during the writ period if my lobbying activities target MPPs?
The writ period begins on the day that the election is called and runs until the election is held. When an election is called, the Legislative Assembly is dissolved and individuals who were MPPs no longer meet the definition of “public office holder” other than cabinet ministers who continue in office until a new minister is appointed. For that reason, it is not required to list members as lobbying targets on the MPP list in your registration(s) during the writ period.
However, cabinet ministers, ministry employees, or any other individual who meets the definition of “public office holder” under subsection 1(1) under the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 are unaffected by the writ period and must be included in your registration(s) if you are lobbying these individuals.
The Lobbyists Registrar encourages all lobbyists to continue to register their lobbying activities as they normally do. Any MPPs who are identified as lobbying targets on a registration do not need to be removed.
What about other public office holders listed on my registration(s)?
The definition of “public office holder” includes more than just MPPs. Some MPPs are also cabinet ministers, and would still be considered public office holders under the Act during the writ period. Therefore, lobbying activities targeting any other public office holders, such as ministry employees or ministers, would be unaffected by the writ period. If you intend to lobby these public office holders, they must be selected in your registration(s) from the appropriate lists.
Will I be required to make changes to my registration after the election?
Maybe. After June 7, 2018, the number of electoral districts in Ontario will increase from 107 to 124. This may result in a change to the name of an electoral district that an MPP represents. Lobbyists who have selected one or more MPPs on a registration will need to review that registration to determine whether the electoral district that an MPP represents is accurate.
Lobbyists must make any necessary changes to the electoral districts that an MPP represents on a registration within 30 days from the date of the election to remain compliant with the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998.
If ministry names change, lobbyists will need to review their registration(s) to determine whether the targeted ministries and/or ministers’ offices are listed accurately.
Lobbyists must update their registrations within 30 days from the date the ministry name is changed to remain compliant with the Act.
Should I be aware of other compliance issues?
As noted, MPPs are not considered “public office holders” when it comes to being listed on your registration(s) during the writ period. However, certain provisions of the Members’ Integrity Act, 1994 continue to apply to MPPs who are running for re-election. This includes the prohibition on accepting gifts. Please see our Guidance for Lobbyists on Gifts and Benefits for more information.