Am I lobbying?
Interpretation Bulletin #1
Not all of your communications with government are “lobbying”. This Bulletin explains what is lobbying and what is not lobbying in Ontario.
You are lobbying if you are paid
You are lobbying if you are paid to communicate with government. There are two types of lobbyists: consultant lobbyists, who are paid to lobby for a client, and in-house lobbyists, who are paid to lobby for their employer.
If you are a volunteer and are not paid for your work, you are not lobbying. You do not need to register as a lobbyist.
You are lobbying when you communicate to try to influence
You are lobbying when you communicate with government to try to influence:
- a law or regulation
(e.g. calling a public office holder to request an amendment to a law)
- a government policy or program(s)
(e.g. meeting with a public office holder to give them a presentation about why they should reverse cuts in a program area)
- a government grant, contribution or other financial benefit
(e.g. sending an email to a public office holder to explain why they should award your non-profit a program grant next year)
- the transfer of a Crown asset, good or service to the private sector.
You are also lobbying when you manage grass-roots communications. See Interpretation Bulletin #8 "What is grass-roots lobbying?".
If you are a consultant lobbyist (paid by a client), you are also lobbying when you:
- arrange a meeting between a public office holder and any other person
- try to influence the awarding of a government contract.
You are not lobbying when you prepare to lobby
You are not lobbying when you prepare for lobbying activities, such as:
- develop research or position papers,
- draft letters or submissions, or
- prepare for meetings with government.
You are not lobbying when you make certain submissions to government
You are not lobbying when you:
- make a public submission to a government committee
(e.g. committee of the legislature, public inquiry, public consultation)
- respond to a written request from government about a government law, policy or practice
(e.g. you provide feedback because a government agency writes to your organization asking for your thoughts on a new policy)
- talk to, or write to, the person in government who is making a decision about how an existing law, program, or policy applies to you or a person or organization you represent
(e.g. you are a lawyer and call to check if your client’s situation is covered by a specific policy)
- talk to, or write to, a member of the Legislative Assembly about a personal matter affecting someone in the MPP’s riding (as long as you are not asking for a private bill, which is a law that exempts a person or group from a general law).
This Bulletin applies to the following types of lobbyists:
- consultant lobbyists
- in-house lobbyists (persons and partnerships) and (organizations)
Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998
- s. 1(1)(b)(ii) “lobby”
- s. 3(2)
First issued: March 30, 2020
The Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 makes sure that lobbying in Ontario is transparent and ethical. The Integrity Commissioner, as the Lobbyists Registrar, maintains an online public record of lobbyists and conducts investigations into non-compliance with the Act. The Registrar may issue a bulletin about the interpretation or application of the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998.
This Bulletin provides general information. It is not legal advice. It is not a binding statement of how the Integrity Commissioner will interpret the law.