Even for seasoned veteran lobbyists, reviewing the rules around lobbying federal officials is a good idea from time-to-time. Basically, if you are what’s called a consultant lobbyist (hired by an organization) you must register within 10 days of your engagement with that organization. If you are an in-house lobbyist working on government relations within your organization, you only need to register your activity if collectively your organization spends 20% of time meeting with government officials to seek funding or policy changes (see diagram below).

Lobbying does NOT include verbal or written submissions to parliamentary committees or proceedings that are a matter of public record, exchanges about the enforcement, interpretation or application of a law or regulation by the responsible public office holder, or requests for information to government or parliamentarians.

Consultant lobbyists:

  • communicate on behalf of clients
  • may be on a board of directors
  • must file an individual return in the Registry of Lobbyists

In-house lobbyists:

  • employed by corporations or organizations
  • the person who holds the most senior office must file a return if lobbying exceeds the 20% threshold

When meeting with federal government officials, you do not need to register all meetings, only the ones with “designated public office holders”. These include:

  • Prime Minister, ministers, ministers of state, and their staff
  • Members of the House of Commons
  • Members of the Senate
  • Deputy ministers, ADMs, and equivalents
  • Positions designated by regulation
  • Some governor in council appointees

Monthly communication reports

Lobbyists must report their verbal and written communications with designated public office holders if they address registrable subject matters (e.g., legislative proposals, legislation, regulations, policies, or programs, awarding of grants, contributions, or other financial benefits, etc.). Consultant lobbyists must also report any communication relating to the awarding of any federal contract.

Monthly communication reports must be disclosed by the 15th of the following month.

The federal Lobbying Act aims to prevent unethical lobbying by requiring paid lobbyists to register their activity and by imposing a five-year cooling-off period on former public officeholders whom they wish to lobby. However, unpaid lobbyists have no obligation to report their activity and are not bound by the Lobbyists Code of Conduct — a set of rules around political activity and gift-giving. All 10 provinces and the Yukon have lobbyist registries.  Some municipalities not captured by provincial lobbying legislation have enacted their own.

Moving forward

Recently, the Commissioner of Lobbying wrapped up a consultation on the Lobbyist Code of Conduct – a document that sets out guidelines for anyone who lobbies. It’s a good thing that this is reviewed periodically and updated. In 2021, the Commissioner of lobbying produced a report that compiled several recommendations that may be considered in updates to the legislation, which is due to be reviewed very soon.

Grassroots Public Affairs can aid you and your organization to ensure that you are keeping track of your meetings with government officials and discuss when you need to register and upload your meetings. If you are interested in learning more about the federal lobbyist registry, or have questions about lobbying in general, please reach out and we would be happy to set up a meeting with you.

Sources: Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada

Natasha Bulowski, Canada’s National Observer

Chris Gray

Associate Sr. Consultant – Ottawa

Recognized by The Hill Times as one of the top 100 lobbyists in Canada, Chris has worked in government and public affairs for 20 years.  His career started on Parliament Hill working for MPs and a Cabinet Minister, before moving to the private sector with organizations including The Greater Toronto Airports Authority, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce and The Heart & Stroke Foundation. Chris has a proven track record of successfully advocating for changes to legislation and policy, and securing funding for organizations. Chris is a native of Prince Edward Island and a graduate of Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Chris currently serves on the board of the Vimy Foundation.

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