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?
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.
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.
Office of the Lobbyist Registrar
110 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, ONK1P 1J1
Direct Line (613) 580-2424 Ext. 21978
Fax (613) 580-9609
 Ontario Professional Planners Institute Professional Code of Practice, section 2.1 and 2.2 http://ontarioplanners.ca/Knowledge-Centre/Professional-Code-of-Practice
 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
 Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998, section 4(4), “Contents of return”; Federal Lobbying Act, section 5(2b), “Contents of return”