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Interpretation bulletins

Compliance Tools

This interpretation bulletin is intended to provide information regarding the requirements imposed on lobbyists by the Lobbyist Registry By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, as well as the compliance tools used by the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar.

Under the Lobbyist Registry By-law, the Integrity Commissioner, acting as Lobbyist Registrar, is responsible for “the enforcement of this by-law”. (Section 9(e), Responsibilities)

Compliance and the Lobbyist Registry

Upon registration, lobbyists are provided with documentation regarding their responsibilities under the Lobbyist Registry By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct.

Broadly, those responsibilities can be separated into two categories: reporting requirements under the Lobbyist Registry By-law and conduct requirements under the Lobbyist Code of Conduct. Non-compliance occurs when lobbyists fail to observe these requirements.

Reporting requirements

Lobbyists are required to “file a return regarding a specific lobbying communication within fifteen (15) business days of the communication occurring.” A complete return must include one lobbying file and one lobbying activity.

Furthermore, consultant lobbyists must “identify in the return the client for which the lobbying has been undertaken.”

Conduct requirements

Lobbyists are required to “adhere to the Code of Conduct during the conduct of lobbying activities with public office holders.” The Lobbyist Code of Conduct sets out a minimum standard of behavior when lobbying.

Lobbyists are expected to be honest and open with their clients and public office holders regarding their activities. Lobbyists and their registered clients are also required to refrain from the improper use of influence by offering gifts, benefits or hospitality to Members of Council or their staff.

Enforcement tools

The Lobbyist Registrar uses different tools to address breaches of the Lobbyist Registry By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct according to their severity.

Administrative fixes

The Lobbyist Registry acts as a public database for lobbying communications that take place with City of Ottawa public office holders.

Lobbyist Registry staff conduct regular reviews of the Registry to ensure that the information being reported is accurate and clear. If staff note minor discrepancies in the information indicated on a profile, they may contact that lobbyist directly to report the error and provide steps to bring the item into compliance.

Example: Unclear lobbying file

The “issue” field of a lobbying file should provide a concise description of the issue on which a person is lobbying.

Lobbying file descriptions that are vague (“lobbying on parking”) or too short (“zoning”) do not provide enough information to people searching the Registry.

Upon discovering these kinds of errors, Lobbyist Registry staff may contact a lobbyist and request them add more details to their lobbying files.

Example: Missing files or activities 

Lobbyist profiles may appear to be missing files and/or activities. These errors may be the result of pre-registration or difficulty in using the Registry.

Upon discovering these kinds of errors, Lobbyist Registry staff may contact a lobbyist to remind them of their responsibility to report their lobbying communications and offer assistance if needed.

Letter of Direction

The Letter of Direction acts as a first step in an escalating compliance scheme and addresses cases where a compliance agreement may not be suitable. The Letter is used:

  • as an enforcement tool designed to address apparent or inadvertent breaches of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct that come to my attention but where the Lobbyist Registrar’s authority does not fully extend;
  • as an education tool, where a formal explanation can reinforce the provisions of the Lobbyist Registry By-law and help a company or lobbyist meet their compliance requirements moving forward; and
  • as documentation to inform action to be taken in the case of a future breach.

These instances tend to involve companies with active in-house lobbyists or clients of consultant lobbyists who may not be fully aware of the restrictions placed on individuals and companies associated with active lobbying files.

Employees of large companies may not be aware that their company is represented in the Lobbyist Registry, and as such are required to abide by certain provisions in the Lobbyist Code of Conduct. While the Lobbyist Registry By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct impose some obligations on companies and clients of lobbyists, the Lobbyist Registrar’s authority is largely restricted to enforcing compliance for registered lobbyists.

In these cases, the Lobbyist Registrar may choose to meet with a lobbyist or their client and issue a Letter of Direction. The Letter of Direction focuses on remedying the error through education, and usually includes:

  • Information regarding the breach
  • Which section of the Code was contravened
  • Immediate actions to be taken to remedy the breach
  • Long-term instructions moving forward

Compliance agreements

The compliance agreement was created to address apparent unintentional or unpremeditated contraventions of the Lobbyist Registry By-law by a registered lobbyist. The Lobbyist Registrar may choose to enter into a compliance agreement with a lobbyist while reserving the ability to impose formal sanctions for more egregious breaches.

The compliance agreement is a voluntary agreement between the Lobbyist Registrar and a lobbyist who has found to have inadvertently contravened the Lobbyist Registry By-law or the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. The agreement includes an agreed-upon statement of facts regarding the specific violation and outlines the steps to be taken to address the breach, including a commitment from the lobbyist to adhere to the By-law and the Code of Conduct in the future. In response to the acknowledgment of the transgression and the commitment to compliant behaviour, the Lobbyist Registrar commits to refrain from conducting a formal investigation with respect to the matter and applying additional sanctions. Compliance agreements are posted online and notice is circulated to Members of Council and senior staff.

Bans

Bans are the only formal sanction listed in the Lobbyist Registry By-law. In cases where a lobbyist has egregiously breached their reporting or conduct requirements and other recourse has failed to bring the lobbyist into compliance, the Lobbyist Registrar may choose to ban the lobbyist from lobbying public office holders for a specific period.

The prescribed ban periods are listed under Part V of the Lobbyist Registry By-law:

Sanctions and Penalties

Refusal to Accept or Suspend Registration or Return

9. 

(1) The Integrity Commissioner may impose a temporary ban on communication in accordance with the following scheme if the Integrity Commissioner finds that the requirements of this by-law have not been met:

a. First breach: the lobbyist is banned from communicating with public office holders for one month;

b. Second breach: the lobbyist is banned from communication with public office holders for three months; and

c. Third breach: The Integrity Commissioner to determine an appropriate sanction.

The Lobbyist Registrar is always available to answer questions or provide advice, and can be reached at lobbyist@ottawa.ca.

Robert Marleau, C.M.
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
Bureau du registraire des lobbyistes

110 Laurier Avenue West/Ouest
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line/ Ligne directe (613) 580-2424 Ext./poste 21978
Fax/ Télécopieur (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca/lobbyiste@ottawa.ca​​​​​​​

Lobbyist Registry Quick Guide

This interpretation bulletin is intended to provide an overview of the registration process for lobbying communications.

Why should I register?

Lobbying is a legitimate activity that benefits not only lobbyists, but public office holders and members of the public as well. The benefits of lobbying conversations are lost, however, when they take place exclusively behind closed doors.

As such, the Lobbyist Registry was adopted to enhance accountability and transparency in local government by providing public access to the elements of the business conducted at City Hall. One of the roles of the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar is to ensure that accurate details of lobbying in the City of Ottawa is available to the public, external stakeholders and public office holders. 

What should I register?

In the Lobbyist Registry By-Law, lobbying is specifically defined as:

“any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Councillor or staff member acting under delegated authority.”

Essentially, the Lobbyist Registry was designed to capture instances of unsolicited communication to influence a matter before public office holders, initiated by individuals seeking to substantively advance a business and/or financial interest outside of the City’s normal business processes.

Any attempt to engage in lobbying as defined above must be disclosed in the Lobbyist Registry. A complete disclosure includes at least one lobbying file and one lobbying activity. Both lobbyists and public office holders should assess conversations and communications on their content and intent.

The Lobbyist Registry By-law exempts certain activities from registration under Section 4. These activities include simple exchanges of information (e.g. meeting requests), advocacy communication and responses to public office holders. 

Who should register?

Anyone who engages in lobbying as defined above must register. City of Ottawa recognizes three types of lobbyists:

  • Individuals who are paid employees, partners or sole proprietors of an organization and who lobby on its behalf are categorized as “In-house” lobbyists
  • Individuals who lobby for payment on behalf of a client (another individual, company, partnership or organization) are categorized as “Consultant” lobbyists
  • Individuals who lobby without payment on behalf of a business or for-profit organization for the benefit of the interests of the for-profit entity or organization are classified as “Voluntary, Unpaid” lobbyists

Lobbyist Registry profiles are meant for individual use only and cannot be used to represent an entire organization. If multiple representatives from an organization engage in lobbying, each representative is required to create a profile.

Should two or more representatives from an organization speak to a public office holder at the same time, one person should be designated as the principal lobbyist responsible for recording that instance of communication. Separate lobbying communications by representatives of an organization must be recorded separately.

The Lobbyist Registry By-law exempts certain persons from registration under Section 3.

When should I register?

The Lobbyist Registry By-law requires that lobbyists record lobbying communications within 15 business days after they take place.

The Lobbyist Registry was designed to track all lobbying communications that have already occurred. Planned lobbying is not captured by the Lobbyist Registry By-law, and the system prevents users from entering activities with dates in the future. Lobbyists should only create profiles, lobbying files or activities after lobbying communication has taken place.

Pre-registration is not a requirement to speak with public office holders, and does not guarantee compliance with the requirements of the Lobbyist Registry By-law. Pre-registration of profiles or lobbying files may result in the appearance of a late registration or a failure to disclose, which affects the accuracy of the information presented to the public and to public office holders.

How do I register?

For a complete walkthrough on registration, consult the Lobbyist Registry User Guide.

I need more information

For any further concerns, including:

  • “Does this conversation constitute lobbying?”
  • “How do I create a profile and register my lobbying?”
  • “Could you please help me retrieve my username and password?”

Please contact the Lobbyist Registrar’s office with as much relevant information as possible at lobbyist@ottawa.ca.

Robert Marleau, C.M.
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
Bureau du registraire des lobbyistes

110 Laurier Avenue West/Ouest
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line/ Ligne directe (613) 580-2424 Ext./poste 21978
Fax/ Télécopieur (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca/lobbyiste@ottawa.ca​​​​​​​

Interpretation Bulletin on Creatures of the City

This interpretation bulletin is intended to provide information regarding certain organizations that operate in partnership with, but independently of, the City of Ottawa.

“Creatures of the City”

A “creature of the city” is an organization whose purpose is aligned with the economic and policy objectives of the City. While these organizations act independently of the City, City representatives sit on their Boards of Directors, and most of their business is conducted with the City as a partner.

Exemption from registration

In considering the nature of these organizations in relation to the City, lobbying conversations initiated by the creatures of the City do not need to be registered.

Examples

The following organizations are creatures of the City and are not required to register their lobbying communications with the City.

Ottawa Film Office

The Ottawa Film Office “focuses on the continued development, retention, competitiveness, and enhancement of the City’s film and television industry.” A Member of Council sits on its Board of Directors.

Invest Ottawa

Invest Ottawa “is the lead economic development agency for knowledge-based industries in Canada’s Capital, facilitating economic growth and job creation in the City of Ottawa.” The Mayor sits on its Board of Directors.

Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc.

Hydro Ottawa Holding Inc. is a “private company, incorporated under the Business Corporations Act (Ontario). At the same time, the company is wholly owned by the City of Ottawa and fulfills a public mandate, and is therefore mindful of its responsibility to be accountable both to its shareholder and the public.” Several Members of Council sit on its Board of Directors.

Ottawa Tourism and Convention Authority

Ottawa Tourism “is a committed tourism industry player that strives to promote the city on the regional, national and international stages to increase visitation and enhance economic impact for the industry and its membership.” A City Staff member sits on its Board of Directors.
 

Please note that this list is non-exhaustive. The Lobbyist Registrar is always available to answer questions or provide advice regarding the registration requirements for communications initiated by creatures of the City and can be reached at lobbyist@ottawa.ca.

Robert Marleau, C.M.
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar

Bureau du registraire des lobbyistes
110 Laurier Avenue West/Ouest
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line/ Ligne directe (613) 580-2424 Ext./poste 21978
Fax/ Télécopieur (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca/lobbyiste@ottawa.ca
 

Lobbyist registration and professional standards

Inquiry:

Many professionals, such as planners, engineers, architects and lawyers have standards of ethics or practice that emphasize the responsibility to provide objective and professional advice or opinions. By registering as lobbyists and logging activity in the City of Ottawa Lobbyist Registry, do such individuals act in contravention of their professional standards for objectivity?

Interpretation:

  1. Professional Standards and the Obligation to Register as a Lobbyist

Certain professional codes of practice hold their members to standards of objectivity and independent opinion. For example, the Professional Code of Practice (Ontario Professional Planners Institute) requires that members impart independent professional opinion to clients, employers, the public, and tribunals, and that they work with integrity and professionalism.1 When acting as an advocate, a lawyer is required by the Rules of Professional Conduct (Law Society of Upper Canada) to refrain from expressing his or her personal opinion on the merits of a client’s case.2

The City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Registry was established to provide accountability and transparency to lobbying activities by giving the public access to information about who is communicating with Members of Council and City Staff. To that end, when providing professional advice or opinions to a public office holder, professionals may be required to register with the Lobbyist Registry when the provision of such advice or opinions promotes the merits of an application or advocates a specific decision on a matter.

The City acknowledges that registering with the Lobbyist Registry does not imply that such a professional is not providing objective and professional advice consistent with the standards of their profession.  Professionals’ duty to uphold their standards of practice does not, therefore, stand in opposition to their requirement to comply with the Lobbyist Code of Conduct.

  1. Confidentiality and Solicitor/Client Privilege

Lobbying occurs when an individual who represents a business or financial interest communicates with a Member of Council or City Staff with the intent of influencing a decision on governmental matters outside of normal processes, including the development, introduction, passage, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Councillor or staff member acting under delegated authority.

The City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Registry requires any lobbyist who engages in such activity to register their communication. When creating a profile in the City of Ottawa Lobbyist Registry, a lobbyist must identify his/her name and business address. Consultant lobbyists (those working on behalf of a client) must also identify in the return the client for which the lobbying has been undertaken. The City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Code of Conduct, Sec. 4 (1) requires lobbyists to inform their client, employer or organization of the obligations under the Lobbyist Registry By-law.  There is no exemption in the Lobbyist Registry By-law or Lobbyist Code of Conduct under the claim of solicitor/client privilege or confidentiality. In this respect, the Lobbyist Registry By-law echoes legislation governing lobbying at the provincial and federal levels.3

The City acknowledges that lawyers are required to comply with their Rules of Professional Conduct; however, the Rules are not in conflict with the disclosure requirements set out in the City’s Lobbyist Registry By-law and Lobbyist Code of Conduct. In fact, the requirement for disclosure of client name is in agreement with the Law Society of Upper Canada Rules of Professional Conduct. Rule 4.06 (2) requires that lawyers, when seeking legislative or administrative changes, disclose the interest being advanced. Lawyers cannot, therefore, claim exemption from registering as lobbyists on the basis of solicitor/client privilege.

It is important to note that each inquiry is accompanied by its own specific context and facts. The preceding summarized interpretations should not be relied upon as rulings nor be considered a substitute for calling or writing the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar when in doubt or to request an interpretation for a specific case.

Robert Marleau

Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ONK1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978 
Fax (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca 

[1] Ontario Professional Planners Institute Professional Code of Practice, section 2.1 and 2.2 http://ontarioplanners.ca/Knowledge-Centre/Professional-Code-of-Practice

[2] Law Society of Upper Canada Rules of Professional Conduct, Commentary to section 4.01 (1) http://www.lsuc.on.ca/WorkArea/DownloadAsset.aspx?id=2147489379

[3] Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998, section 4(4), “Contents of return”; Federal Lobbying Act, section 5(2b), “Contents of return”

Unsolicited written and electronic communications

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify the obligations of Members of Council or their staff (acting on the Member’s behalf) when they receive unsolicited written or electronic communications.

The Lobbyist Registry By-law defines “communication” as follows,

any substantive form of communication including a formal meeting, email, letter, phone call or meaningful dialogue or exchange that materially advances a matter that is defined as lobbying, whether in a formal or in an informal setting.

 The definition of lobbying means,

any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Councillor or staff member acting under delegated authority.

Under Section IX (Conduct Respecting Lobbying) of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council, Members have certain obligations with respect to the Lobbyist Registry [emphasis added]:

Members of Council, as public office holders, are routinely approached by various individuals attempting to influence decisions before Council or under the delegated authority of the Ward Councillor. While lobbying is an acceptable practice, disclosure of lobbying activities enhances the transparency and integrity of City business.

In accordance with the City’s Lobbyist Registry, Members of Council shall review the Lobbyist Registry on a monthly basis to confirm that instances where they have been lobbied on a particular matter, including the specific matter and date, have been registered. Where lobbying activity has not been disclosed, the Member shall first remind the lobbyist of the requirement to disclose and, should the activity remain undisclosed, advise the Integrity Commissioner of the failure to disclose.

Further, Members of Council should ensure that individuals who are lobbying them are aware of their requirement to register as required under the requirements of the Lobbyist Registry. Members of Council should not knowingly communicate with a lobbyist who is acting in violation of the requirements of the Registry. If a Member of Council is or at any time becomes aware that a person is in violation of the rules related to lobbying, the Member should either refuse to deal with the lobbyist or, where appropriate, either terminate the communication with the lobbyist at once or, if in the Member’s judgment it is appropriate to continue the communication, at the end of the communication, draw that person’s attention to the obligations imposed by the Registry and report the communication to the City Clerk and to the Integrity Commissioner.

Based on the definitions of communication and lobbying provided by the Lobbyist Registry By-law, a Member of Council has no obligation under Section IX (Conduct Respecting Lobbying) when the Member or the Member’s staff (acting on their behalf), simply receives and acknowledges an unsolicited written or electronic communication which does not constitute a meaningful dialogue or exchange that seeks to materially advance a matter that is defined as lobbying.  

Robert Marleau

Office of the Integrity Commissioner
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978 
Fax (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca

Closing a lobbying file

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify the obligations of lobbyists with regard to closing a lobbying file.

The Lobbyist Registry By-law defines “lobbying” as follows:

any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Council or staff member acting under delegated authority.

What is a Lobbying File?

Lobbying files are created to disclose the subject matter on which registered lobbyists are lobbying. Under each lobbying file, lobbying activities are registered to capture the relevant lobbying communications, i.e. the date, method and person(s) lobbied.

“Active” versus “Closed” Lobbying Files

When a lobbying file is created, its status is marked “active” from the outset. A lobbying file remains active as long as lobbyists continue to lobby public office holders and register their lobbying activities against said file.

When all substantive communications have concluded and no further lobbying is anticipated or required on a lobbying file, lobbyists are required to mark it as “closed”. By way of example, if a lobbyist has a lobbying file directly related to a specific planning application and the application has received all of the necessary approvals, the relevant file should be closed. Lobbying on a file is no longer permitted once it has been closed.

Closing a Lobbying File

It is at the discretion of the lobbyist to determine if a lobbying file can be closed. However, marking a lobbying file “closed” better informs users of the Registry and adds to the transparency of lobbying activities. Closing a file can also ensure lobbyists and public office holders avoid potential situations of perceived improper influence.

Pursuant to Section 6 (Improper Influence) of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, lobbyists have certain obligations:

  1. Lobbyists shall avoid both the deed and the appearance of impropriety
  2. Lobbyists shall not knowingly place public office holders in a conflict of interest or in breach of public office holders’ codes of conduct or standards of behaviour

By way of example, in accordance with Section IX (Conduct Respecting Lobbying) of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council, the acceptance of any gift, benefit, or hospitality from lobbyists with active lobbying files, or from their clients or their employees by Members of Council or their staff is prohibited. In turn, pursuant to the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, lobbyists shall not knowingly place public office holders in a breach of their codes of conduct.

It is in the interest of the lobbyists and the public office holders to avoid situations in which the violation of such provisions could occur. By marking lobbying files as “closed”, lobbyists officially disclose that they do not seek to further influence on specific matters, thus avoiding potential situations of impropriety.

This having been said, lobbyists are encouraged to be continually mindful of the provisions regarding improper influence that comprise Section 6 of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct. Lobbyists are heretofore required to highlight the status of their lobbying files, whether “active” or “closed”.

Frequently Asked Questions for Lobbyists

What is a lobbying file?

Lobbying files disclose the subject matter on which lobbyists are lobbying. Lobbying activities are registered to capture the relevant lobbying communications against each relevant file, i.e. the date, method and person(s) lobbied. For example, an individual is lobbying public office holders about an exemption from a particular by-law (lobbying file) and that person sends an e-mail to all Members of Council (lobbying activity).

What is the difference between an “active” lobbying file and a “closed” lobbying file?

A lobbying file is active from the outset and remains active as long as you continue to lobby public office holders on said file. When no further lobbying is anticipated on a lobbying file, said lobbying file should be marked “closed”. Lobbying on a file is no longer permitted once it has been closed.

How do I close a lobbying file?

When no further lobbying will occur on a lobbying file, it should be closed. Under the “Lobbying File” section of your profile page, click on the lobbying file you wish to close. Once on the relevant Lobbying File page, you will check the “Close Lobbying File” box and click the “Save” button. Once saved, the “status” on your lobbying file should appear “closed” on your main profile page.

What if I close a lobbying file by accident?

Once a lobbying file is closed, it will not be possible to re-open the Lobbying File without first contacting my office at lobbyist@ottawa.ca.

What measures are in place should a Lobbyist continue to lobby on a closed file?

Continued lobbying on a closed file is a breach of the spirit of the By-law and is similar to not registering a lobbying activity. Part V (Sanctions and Penalties) of the Lobbyist Registry By-law outlines actions that the Integrity Commissioner may take, should he find that the requirements of the By-law have not been met. Sanctions follow an incremental scheme based on the number of breaches that have occurred, and include temporary bans on communication with public office holders.

It is important to note that each inquiry is accompanied by its own specific context and facts. The preceding summarized interpretations should not be relied upon as rulings nor be considered a substitute for calling or writing the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar when in doubt or to request an interpretation for a specific case.

Robert Marleau
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978 
Fax (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca

Lobbying Members-elect

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify the obligations of lobbyists with respect to lobbying individuals who have been newly elected to office for the 2014-2018 Term of Council, but who have not taken office. The Term of Office for these individuals officially begins on December 1, 2014. For the period between when their election to office has been confirmed and December 1, 2014, these individuals are known as Members-elect. This bulletin provides guidance on lobbying both elected incumbents (those who held office for the 2010-2014 Term of Council) and those newly elected to office. 

For the purposes of this interpretation bulletin, the term “transition period” will be used to describe the period of time between Voting Day and before the Term of Office, which is October 28, 2014 to November 30, 2014.

Lobbying and the Lobbyist Registry

The Lobbyist Registry By-law defines “lobbying” as follows:

any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Council or staff member acting under delegated authority.

Lobbying is a legitimate activity that is part of an individual’s, group’s or company’s right to communicate with public office holders, defined by the Lobbyist Registry By-law (“the By-law”) as Members of Council and municipal staff. Essentially, the purpose of the Lobbyist Registry is to provide accountability and transparency around lobbying activities.

Lobbying Elected Incumbents

Members of Council who are defeated on Voting Day remain public office holders until the 2010-2014 Term of Office ends on November 30, 2014. During the transition period, all regular rules governing the lobbying of public office holders still apply to registered lobbyists’ substantive communications with defeated Members.

Similarly, incumbents who were re-elected for the 2014-2018 Term of Office also remain public office holders during the transition period. Substantive communications with these elected incumbents for the purposes of lobbying would, therefore, also be governed by the Lobbyist Registry’s disclosure requirements.

With that said, if an individual lobbies defeated and/or re-elected Members of Council during the transition period, these lobbying activities must be disclosed with the Lobbyist Registry within fifteen business days of the communication occurring, as per the Lobbyist Registry By-law.

Lobbying Members-elect

Following Voting Day, Members-elect have no formal role and no decision-making power until the new Term of Office. Members-elect are not public office holders until December 1st, 2014; therefore lobbying of these individuals during the transition period is not captured by the Lobbyist Registry By-law and does not require disclosure. It is not possible to publicly disclose any such lobbying activity as the names of Members-elect will not appear in the electronic Registry until December 1, 2014.

Lobbyists, however, are bound by their Code of Conduct at all times. In accordance with the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, lobbyists are expected to comply with the standards of behaviour for lobbyists and conduct of lobbying activities set out in the Code. Just as City Council as a whole must ensure the accountability and transparency of City business, registered lobbyists must ensure their activities are open and transparent, and that their business with the City are conducted in an ethical and accountable manner.

Lobbying a Member-elect during the transition period may result in a negative perception of undue influence, therefore it is strongly recommended lobbyists should take all necessary measures to avoid creating any apparent impropriety.

With that said, as a matter of practice, it is my recommendation that lobbyists should refrain from lobbying Members-elect until their term of office commences. Such a "best practice" will ensure City business does not occur outside of the public eye, thus strengthening registered lobbyists’ commitment to their honest, accountable and transparent standards of behaviour and conduct of lobbying activities.

Provisions regarding gifts, benefits, hospitality and tickets

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify the obligations of Members of Council or their staff (acting on the Member’s behalf) when they are in a position where they may receive gifts, benefits, hospitality and tickets.

Under Section X (Gifts, Benefits and Hospitality) of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council, Members have certain obligations with respect to the receipt of gifts:

Members of Council shall not accept gifts that would, to a reasonable member of the public, appear to be in gratitude for influence, to induce influence, or otherwise to go beyond the necessary and appropriate public functions involved. For these purposes, a gift, benefit or hospitality provided with the Member’s knowledge to a Member’s spouse, child, or parent, or to a Member’s staff that is connected directly or indirectly to the performance of the Member’s duties is deemed to be a gift to that Member.

To enhance transparency and accountability with respect to gifts, benefits and hospitality, Members of Council are required to file a quarterly disclosure statement that is subsequently added to a public Gifts Registry. Members of Council are required to disclose all gifts, benefits, hospitality and sponsored travel received which individually exceed $100 from one source in a calendar year.

Event Tickets

As with gifts, the acceptance of tickets can appear to be a means of undue influence. Section X of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council also contains provisions regarding Members’ acceptance of tickets. It notes that, while the choice of venues and events they attend is entirely at the discretion of Members of Council, when accepting tickets, Members shall observe the following limits:

All tickets of a value exceeding $30 shall be disclosed quarterly in the Gifts Registry, along with the disposition thereof (e.g. who attended with the Member, or if donated, to whom or what organization).

A limit of two tickets for up to two events from one source in a calendar year is permitted and requires disclosure;

Accepting any tickets for subsequent events from the same source is prohibited.

The Code of Conduct for Members of Council was enacted on July 1, 2013. Since that time, in response to Members’ inquiries, the Integrity Commissioner has issued many interpretations of the Code’s provisions regarding gifts, benefits, hospitality and tickets. The following are common matters on which the Integrity Commissioner has provided interpretations:

Gifts, Benefits, Hospitality or Tickets from Lobbyists

Section IX (Conduct Respecting Lobbying) of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council states:

Unless pre-approved by the Integrity Commissioner, the acceptance of any gift, benefit, or hospitality from lobbyists with active lobbying registrations or from their registered clients or their employees by Members of Council or their staff is prohibited.

Before accepting any gift, benefit, hospitality, invitation or ticket, Members of Council are encouraged to check the Lobbyist Registry. Members cannot accept gifts from lobbyists with active files in the Lobbyist Registry. Additionally, Members may not accept any gift from a client of an active lobbyist, or from employees of that client.

As part of the Council Governance Review, 2014-2018, Section 6 (Improper Influence) of the Lobbyist Code of Conduct was amended to include the following prohibition:

(3) Lobbyists with active lobbying registrations, their registered clients or their employees shall not, directly or indirectly, offer or provide any gift, benefit or hospitality to Members of Council or their staff.

In this way, the prohibition in the Code of Conduct for Members of Council on accepting any such gifts is now mirrored by a prohibition in the Lobbyist Code on offering or providing any gift to Members or their staff.

Gifts, Benefits, Hospitality or Tickets from Non-lobbyists

The Office of the Integrity Commissioner recognizes that, at times, the acceptance of a gift, benefit, hospitality or ticket(s) occurs as part of the social protocol or community events linked to the duties of an elected official and their role in representing the municipality. For that reason, Members of Council may accept gifts, benefits, hospitality, invitations and tickets from individuals who do not appear in the Lobbyist Registry.

Members must be cautious, however, not to indicate favouritism, bias, or influence in their acceptance of such gifts. If a Member of Council accepts any gift, benefit or hospitality valued at over $100, the item must be disclosed in the Gifts Registry. If a Member of Council accepts any ticket valued at over $30, the item must also be disclosed in the Gifts Registry.

Hospitality related to a Councillor’s official duties

Members of Council are not required to disclose in the Gifts Registry hospitality that relates directly to their representative role. The Code of Conduct for Members of Council provides an exception for gifts or benefits that normally accompany the responsibilities of office. The Code of Conduct also provides an exception for events which Members and their staff attend in an official capacity, and which serve a legitimate business purpose.

Examples of such exceptions include:

  • A meal that the Councillor and his/her staff are provided while attending a community celebration in their official capacity in the Member’s Ward
  • A meal that the Councillor and his/her staff are provided while meeting with members of a local board of the Member’s Ward
  • Free admission to an event taking place, inside or outside of the Member’s Ward, for which the Member has served in an organizational or honorary capacity (such as a charity fund-raiser)

The Code of Conduct for Members of Council provides for exceptions regarding food and beverages consumed at such events if the attendance serves a legitimate business purpose, the person extending the invitation or a representative of the organization is in attendance, and the value is reasonable and the invitations infrequent.

It is important to note that each inquiry is accompanied by its own specific context and facts. The preceding summarized interpretations should not be relied upon as rulings nor be considered a substitute for calling or writing the Office of the Integrity Commissioner when in doubt or to request an interpretation for a specific case.

Robert Marleau

Office of the Integrity Commissioner
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ONK1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978 
Fax (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca

Lobbyist Registry Registration

This interpretation bulletin is intended to address concerns and myths about the registration process for lobbying activities in the City of Ottawa. The Lobbyist Registry was implemented in 2012, in response to the City of Ottawa’s Accountability Framework initiative, and adopted to enhance accountability and transparency in local government.

Any attempt to influence legislative action or major decisions in the City of Ottawa, by individuals, groups or organizations outside of normal processes, must be disclosed in the Lobbyist Registry. The Office of the Lobbyist Registrar has recently received a number of inquiries related to the definition of lobbying, substantive communication and registration requirements for lobbying activities with the City.

The objective of this interpretation bulletin is to promote greater understanding of the requirements of the Lobbyist Registry and to assist all users in complying with the Lobbyist Registry By-Law 2012-309. By monitoring user compliance, the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar will ensure the most accurate details of lobbying in the City of Ottawa will be available to constituents, external stakeholders and any other interested party.

The Lobbyist Registry is a tool that records all substantive communication between lobbyists, City staff and public office holders that is aimed at influencing a decision before Council. The Lobbyist Registry is intended to provide public access to the elements of the business conducted at City Hall, in an open and transparent manner.

Top misconceptions about the Lobbyist Registry

1. All individuals, groups and organizations must create profiles in anticipation of potential future lobbying activities: False

  • Lobbyists are not required to and should not create profiles in the Lobbyist Registry unless they have had lobbying communications with City staff that require registration
  • The Lobbyist Registry is designed to track all lobbying activities that have occurred as opposed to planned lobbying activity or general inquiries etc.
  • Creating lobbyist profiles in anticipation of future activities distorts registry data and creates a false representation of communication between city staff and the public
  • Creating a lobbyist profile does not guarantee that one is in compliance with the By-law
  • In order to be in compliance with the By-law, each instance of lobbying must be disclosed by creating a new lobbying file attached to a particular client, and the client name, company name and business address must also be included
  • Three negative consequences can ensue when lobbyist profiles are created in anticipation of potential lobbying:
  1. The data in the Registry is incorrect and compromises the accuracy of the City’s public records
  2. Lobbying files and activity are not recorded (as no formal lobbying has occurred) and the profiles remain active and incomplete in the database
  3. The public, public office holders and other lobbyists are mislead to believe that lobbying is occurring and not disclosed

2. All communication between City staff, elected officials, and lobbyists is defined as “lobbying”: False

In the Lobbyist Registry By-Law, Lobbying is specifically defined as:

“any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a Ward Councillor or staff member acting under delegated authority.”

The City of Ottawa recognizes three types of lobbyists:
  1. Individuals who are paid employees, partners or sole proprietors of an organization and who lobby on its behalf are categorized as “In-house” lobbyists
  2. Individuals who lobby for payment on behalf of a client (another individual, company, partnership or organization) are categorized as “Consultant” lobbyists
  3. Individuals who lobby without payment on behalf of a business or for-profit organization for the benefit of the interests of the for-profit entity or organization are classified as “Voluntary, Unpaid” lobbyists
  • Trade unions, labour associations and not-for-profit organizations with paid staff are required to register any communications that are classified as lobbying
  • The ability of City staff and Members of Council to recognize instances where they are being lobbied is important to ensure that all activity is disclosed accordingly
  • It is equally important for public office holders to recognize conversations that are not categorized as lobbying 
In Summary:
  • Not all communication between Members of Council, City staff and lobbyists constitutes lobbying
  • Informal conversations that do not aim to influence legislative action would not be categorized as lobbying, even though they might occur in a formal setting
  • In contrast, conversations in informal or social settings could constitute lobbying if they are engineered with the intent to influence a decision before Council
  • Lobbying communication includes all efforts to achieve a financial or business interest including formal meetings, e-mails, letters, or phone calls between lobbyists, City staff and Members of Council
  • Requesting a meeting or making an appointment does not constitute lobbying
  • Registration of a profile is not a pre-requisite for a meeting to take place

3. All individuals who are present during lobbying communications should have individual profiles in the Lobbyist Registry: False

  • If several individuals from the same organization engage in lobbying activities only one person must register a profile in the system
  • To clarify, if individuals from the same organization participate in the same lobbying activities only one person is required to have an active lobbyist registry profile
  • However, if two individuals from the same organization participate in different lobbying communications they both require individual profiles in the system
  • It is also important to note that profiles in the Lobbyist Registry are username and email specific
  • This implies that individuals cannot share profiles even though they might work for the same organization and participate in similar lobbying activities

***While the preceding guidelines should serve as reference, it is important to note that each individual inquiry is accompanied by its own specific context and facts. The information summarized above should not be considered a substitute for contacting the Office of the Lobbyist Registrar to request an interpretation for a specific case.***

Ottawa 2017 and Sponsorships

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify the impact of the Lobbyist Registry By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct on the sponsorship efforts of Celebrations Ottawa Inc. and Ottawa 2017 activities.

Ottawa 2017 and Celebrations Ottawa Inc.

In 2017, Canada will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. The Nation’s Capital will be the epicentre of celebrations and the City of Ottawa will be a major partner in seeking financial support, planning and organizing celebration events and activities. There will also be at least one major event occurring in each of the City’s wards in cooperation with the Ward Councillor.

In April 2015, Ottawa Tourism announced that it had registered a request with Corporations Canada to federally incorporate a new non-profit organization (NPO) under the legal name “Celebrations Ottawa Inc.” to manage all Ottawa 2017 activities.

On May 13, 2015, Ottawa City Council approved the appointment of Mayor Jim Watson, Councillor Jean Cloutier, Councillor Mathieu Fleury and the Director of Economic Development and Innovation (three elected officials and one City staff) to the Board of Directors of Celebrations Ottawa Inc.

Sponsorships

The primary purpose of the Celebrations Ottawa Inc. is to seek partnerships in putting on events. Sponsorship is when a business makes a donation to a charity or other organization and in return, receives advertising or promotion of its brand, products or services. Sponsorship is not philanthropy. It is a mutually beneficial business partnership. It is a contract between two parties. Many organizations including the City of Ottawa have adopted policies that determine and define how sponsorships are managed.

While sponsorships are totally legitimate and appropriate when managed in a transparent fashion, all partners need to be aware of the potential for the appearance of conflict of interest and undue influence, especially when public office holders are involved.

Lobbyist Registry and Ottawa 2017

Lobbyists and their clients with active lobbying files in the Lobbyist Registry are prohibited from offering sponsorships and benefits to public office holders. The principle being that providing or promising a gift, favour, or other benefit to a public office holder could create a sense of obligation. This tension is the characterization of a conflict, and should be avoided. Therefore, to prevent such a harmful situation, the Members of Council Code of Conduct prohibits the acceptance of such favours and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct prohibits the offer of such favours.

The Lobbyist Registry By-law does not apply to Celebrations Ottawa Inc. as an independent NPO. Therefore, corporations doing business with the City or lobbyists and their clients with active lobbying files are free to interact with Celebrations Ottawa Inc. and participate in sponsorship partnerships with the newly created NPO.

However, as three Members of Council and one City staff member sit on the Board of Directors of Celebrations Ottawa Inc., lobbyists and their clients with active lobbying files in the Lobbyist Registry continue to be bound by the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct in relation to the three Members of Council and City staff member even when they are acting as members of the Board of Directors on behalf of Celebrations Ottawa Inc. For this reason, lobbyists or their clients with active lobbying files in the Lobbyist Registry are prohibited from offering any sponsorships for Ottawa 2017 directly to these public office holders.

Correspondingly, the three Members of Council sitting on the Board of Directors are also bound by their own Code of Conduct and are prohibited from accepting gifts, benefits, hospitality or sponsorship in relation to Ottawa 2017 from lobbyists or their clients with active lobbying files.

Robert Marleau
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978
Fax (613) 580-9609
lobbyist@ottawa.ca

Lobbying and the Ottawa Public Library Board

This interpretation bulletin is provided to clarify your responsibilities if you lobby Members of the Ottawa Public Library Board who are also Members of Ottawa City Council.  

Lobbyists and the Ottawa Central Library Project

The Ottawa Central Library is a major project for the City of Ottawa. It has been the focus of much public attention, and will, no doubt, remain in the public eye as the Project moves through the design and construction phases.

It is understood that lobbyists may communicate with all Members of the Ottawa Public Library Board (OPLB), including the four Board members who are also Members of Ottawa City Council, as the Ottawa Central Library Project progresses.

The OPLB and the Lobbyist Registry By-law

The City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Registry By-law does not apply to the OPLB.  As such, there is no requirement for a lobbyist to register communications with Members of the OPLB, including those with Members of Ottawa City Council who are also on the OPLB.

With that said, lobbying an OPLB Member who is also a Member of Ottawa City Council raises the potential for perceived conflict of interest and undue influence for that Board Member/Member of Council. There are, therefore, certain situations when lobbyists should register their communications with the OPLB Members who are also Members of Ottawa City Council.

Responsibilities of Lobbyists

If you are lobby an OPLB Member who is also a member of Council, and the subject of that discussion is something that will come to a vote before Ottawa City Council, the lobbying communication should be entered in the City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Registry.

In such a situation, all of the requirements of the Lobbyist Registry By-law apply. It is, therefore, your responsibility to register the communication within 15 business days of the communication occurring. 

Finally, as Lobbyists, you continue to be bound by the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct (which is appended to the Lobbyist Registry By-law). As such, you are prohibited from, directly or indirectly, offering or providing any gift, benefit or hospitality to Members of Council or their staff. The prohibition remains in effect when Members of Council are operating in their capacity as Members of the OPLB.