On May 27, 2023, the new federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (New Code) was published in the Canada Gazette.
Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger highlighted several key changes to the New Code in her submission to the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in November 2022. A summary of key changes is outlined below.
If an individual is required to register under the Lobbying Act, they must comply with the New Code. The New Code applies to lobbying activities and the lobbyists’ interactions with officials who they lobby or expect to lobby. The Commissioner of Lobbying will investigate issues of non-compliance, which can lead to a report to Parliament.
The New Code repeats a number of principles from previous editions of the code. The expectations are transparency, respect for government institutions, integrity, honesty and professionalism. They are intended to guide lobbyists in complying with the rules in the New Code.
Several changes have been made to the rules in the New Code.
Grassroots lobbying activities must now identify interests and the purpose of lobbying.
Consultant lobbyists must now advise the client that they both may have obligations under the Lobbying Act.
In-house lobbyists must inform the employer’s registrant of their lobbying communications.
Trustworthiness now applies to grassroots lobbying activities.
Lobbyists must act in good faith.
Lobbyists must take reasonable steps not to mislead.
Lobbyists must maintain information in confidence unless consent is obtained.
Gifts and Hospitality
The revised gifting rule prevents a lobbyist from offering — directly or indirectly — a gift to an official they lobby. An official can accept a low-value gift as long as the gift does not exceed C$40. It also should not exceed the annual gift-giving and hospitality limit of C$200.
A specific hospitality rule has been created. Lobbyists are prohibited from offering hospitality to an official that they lobby. Like gifts, there are exceptions. Exceptions include: if the hospitality is related to a lobbying activity, the value of the hospitality does not exceed C$40, and it does not exceed the annual gift giving and hospitality limit of C$200.
The Commissioner of Lobbying may grant an exemption if the exemption does not contravene the objectives or expectations of the New Code.
Sense of Obligation
Preferential access has been replaced with a focus on whether the lobbyist has a close relationship with the official. The lobbyist should not lobby the official if there is a close relationship.
The political engagement rule has been updated. A lobbyist is prohibited from lobbying an official where a sense of obligation exists due to the lobbyist’s former political work. The cooling-off period for resuming lobbying activities is 24 months where the lobbyist held a leadership or senior political role. For other political roles, functions or tasks, the cooling-off period is 12 months. Additionally, there is a “12 months or less” cooling-off period where the lobbyist engaged in fundraising that could reasonably be seen as significant to the official. The Commissioner of Lobbying determines the “12 months or less” cooling-off period. The rule is applicable to paid and unpaid work and expands the individuals who cannot be lobbied under the prohibition. The Commissioner of Lobbying may reduce the cooling-off period. This depends on the nature of the political work and its importance to the official, the degree of interaction with the official, and the period spent carrying out the political work.
The prohibition on placing an official in a real or apparent conflict of interest has been revised. The updated rule now focuses on the conduct of the lobbyist. It provides an objective standard to determine if a sense of obligation exists between the official and the lobbyist. In the Commissioner of Lobbying’s submission, this updated rule is meant to act as a catch-all, where the New Code’s other rules may not apply.
The New Code will come into force on July 1, 2023. Any lobbying activities or interactions up to and including June 30, 2023, will be subject to the 2015 code.
For more information, please contact:
Alexis Levine +1-416-863-3089
Alan Fraser +1-416-863-3172
or any member of our Public Sector Crisis & Compliance group.
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