As always, it was a busy year in the lobbying law, ethics and compliance world. Our President, along with key board members and senior lobbyists, have had several meetings with lobbying regulators at all levels of government over the course of 2017. In each of these meetings PAAC emphasized the contributions lobbyists of all kinds make to the public policy development process. In addition, we are in the process of arranging professional development sessions for members with the new federal Commissioner of Lobbying, the Ontario Integrity Commissioner and the City of Toronto’s lobbyist registrar.
Our President was quoted in the news throughout the year, including the Lobbyist Monitor and Hill Times, on developments within the lobbying regulatory environment.
Highlights of this year’s activities include:
- NDP government of BC is introducing reforms to its lobbying legislation. The PAAC BC Chapter is currently reviewing the proposed changes and soliciting feedback from members to develop a response.
- Federal: Karen Shepard is retiring as of the end of 2017 as Canada’s lobbying commissioner after 8 years in the positon. PAAC has had a good working relationship with her and we will ensure that this continues under the new Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger (at the present time, her nomination is being confirmed by the House and then Senate).
- In Ontario, the Integrity Committee followed up on last year’s consultation on gifts and conflicts by issuing a new interpretation bulletin. In essence, any gift is considered problematic, from free tickets to lunches, since it may place the public office holder in a perceived conflict of interest or create a sense of obligation on his or her part towards the lobbyist giving the gift. PAAC suggested that this be amended to include a specific annual dollar amount to enable lobbyists to include Public office holders in education events or presentations.
- The City of Toronto also has revised some of its key interpretation bulletins. The Lobbying and Donations to Council member-organized community events (November 2017) restricts donations by lobbyists or those using lobbyists to council member’s community events.
Looking Forward to 2018:
- Review of the federal lobbying act: it is anticipated that the house Ethics Committee will relaunch its review the Lobbying Act, once the new commissioner is confirmed. This process is to occur every five years and was last reviewed in 2012. PAAC will work closely with GRIC to develop messages and presentation material outlining our key recommendations. In our 2012 submission to the lobbying act review we suggested that the “20% rule” for in-house lobbyists be eliminated to create a level playing field and avoid any “loop holes” in the rules. We also stated the 5-year ban on Designed Public office holders becoming lobbyists is too restrictive and should align with provincial rules—1-2 year cooling off periods.
- Ontario election June 2018: We will communicate the value-added function of lobbyists to all political parties to try and avoid new rules further restricting our activities. The PCs have outlined in their platform a rule to prohibit political staff from taking positions at firms that were lobbying the Ministry the staff person was a member of. The NDP also have had negative proposals in the past and PAAC will be sure to advocate against these kinds of developments.