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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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 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
(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 email@example.com.
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