Changes to the Lobbyists Registration Act

Substantive changes are coming to Ontario’s lobbyists registration system after Bill 8, the Public Sector and MPP Transparency and Accountability Act, 2014, was voted into law on December 9, 2014.

The various sections of the Act will be become law upon their proclamation dates, which are still to be determined.

The bill brings key amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998. All lobbyists are urged to carefully review the Act to become familiar with how the amendments will affect their registrations.

The Office will be undertaking a transition process for all registrations. Information will be shared as it is available.

Among the amendments:

Investigative Powers

The bill will give investigative powers to the Integrity Commissioner, as Lobbyists Registrar. This change provides the registrar with the authority to conduct a full investigation when there are allegations that a lobbyist has not complied with the Act.

The penalties for non-compliance include:

-          A prohibition from lobbying for up to two years

-          Public statements outlining the name of the lobbyist, a description of the non-compliance, and any other information the registrar considers necessary.

The offence provisions in the LRA remain, however if a lobbyist is found guilty of an offence under the Act, the maximum fine will be increased. If a lobbyist is found guilty of a first offence, the fine is up to $25,000. Each subsequent offence carries a fine of up to $100,000.

New Questions on the Registration Form

The bill proposes a number of new questions for the registration form completed by all lobbyists. These include:

-          Providing additional information on the lobbying target. Lobbyists will be required to declare which minister and/or Members of Provincial Parliament by riding. They will also be required to state whether they will be lobbying staff in the office of a minister or MPP.

-          All lobbyists will be required to state whether they were an Ontario government minister, a ministers’ staff employee, a deputy minister, associate deputy minister, assistant deputy minister, chief executive officer or chair of the board of directors of an agency, board or commission, a senior employee who reported to the chief executive officer of an agency, board or commission.

This list also includes whether they were a chief executive officer or chair of the board of directors of Hydro One Inc. (or a subsidiary), Ontario Power Generation Inc. (or a subsidiary), Ontario Power Authority, or the Independent Electricity System Operator. People who reported to the chief executive officer of those entities will also be required to declare their former employment.

Renewal Periods

At present, registrations can be renewed only after their anniversary date.

The amendments will allow a registration to be renewed within a 60-day window that runs from 30 days before the anniversary date to 30 days after.

What to know if you are a Consultant Lobbyist

The key change for consultant lobbyists will be the requirement to answer the additional questions and provide greater detail about the goal of their lobbying activity.

Contingency fees will be expressly forbidden.

What to know if you are an in-house lobbyist for a for-profit corporation (Person or Partnership)

Renewal Periods

At present, in-house lobbyists for for-profit corporations renew their registrations annually based on their employer’s financial year.

Under the amendments, the renewal period will be every six months based on the initial filing date of the registrationaligning the registration provisions with those in place for in-house lobbyists with Organizations.

Calculating Lobbying Time

The Act will require a Person or Partnership to register its lobbying activity when the total lobbying activity undertaken by paid employees totals 50 hours in a year. This includes any lobbying activity by directors.

Originally the Act stipulated that in-house lobbyists employed by for-profit corporations were required to register only when their individual lobbying activities comprised a significant part of duties, or defined as 20% of an employee's time. In a three-month period, this would be interpreted as 96 hours.

A Single Registration For Each Entity

At present, each employee who lobbies on behalf of a for-profit corporation is required to submit a registration under their own name.

New amendments will require each Person or Partnership to have a single registration under the name of the Senior Officer. (This is  the case whether the Senior Officer actually lobbies, or not.) The names of all employees who lobby are to be included in one registration.

What to know if you are an in-house lobbyist for a non-profit entity (Organization)

Calculating Lobbying Time

The Act will require an Organization to register its lobbying activity when the total lobbying activity undertaken by paid employees totals 50 hours in a year.

Originally, the Act stipulated that in-house lobbyists employed by an Organization were required to register only when the cumulative lobbying activity by all paid employees comprised a significant part of duties, or defined as 20% of an employee's time. In a three-month period, this would be interpreted as 96 hours.

Submitting Changes

Organizations will be required to update their registration within 30 days of any change to the information within their registration to ensure their registrations are up-to-date.

Transition

Implementing the amendments will require significant changes to the lobbyists registration system, and are expected to take some time.

The Office will be working on the policies and procedures in the coming months. Regular updates and information sessions will be made available to all stakeholders.

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