June 10, 2014
Sent on behalf of Mr. Robert Marleau, Integrity Commissioner:
My office has received a number of inquiries this year from Members of Council regarding the acceptance of tickets, hospitality and benefits from lobbyists, their clients and employees with active files in the Lobbyist Registry. This message is provided to clarify the obligations of lobbyists with respect to this matter.
The City of Ottawa’s Lobbyist Registry By-law, section 6, sets out guidelines for the registration and reporting of lobbying activity. Subsection 5 states:
Lobbyists shall adhere to the Code of Conduct during the conduct of lobbying activities with public office holders.
As individuals with lobbying files with the City of Ottawa Lobbyist Registry, therefore, you have certain obligations under the Lobbyist Code of Conduct (“the Code”). Specifically with respect to section 6 of the Code, “Improper Influence,” you must not knowingly place Members of Council in conflict with their own Code of Conduct. The section reads as follows (emphasis added):
- Lobbyists shall avoid both the deed and the appearance of impropriety.
- Lobbyists shall not knowingly place public office holders in a conflict of interest or in breach of the public office holders’ codes of conduct or standards of behaviour.
Correspondingly, I would like to draw your attention to the provisions regarding lobbying that appear in the Code of Conduct for Members of Council, the document outlining the ethical behaviour expected of Members of Ottawa City Council. Under Section IX “Conduct Respecting Lobbying:”
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.
The principle behind this provision is to ensure that companies and individuals who may be seeking to do business with the City do not do so by giving gifts or favours to people in a position to influence decision-making.
The provisions of the Code of Conduct for Members of Council and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct work hand-in-hand. The former states that, unless I offer pre-approval, Members and their staff are required to decline tickets, hospitality and benefits from lobbyists, their clients and employees with active files in the Lobbyist Registry. The Lobbyist Code states that lobbyists must not knowingly place Members in breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct. In this way, when an individual with an active lobbying file places a Member in breach of his/her Code of Conduct, the lobbyist (or client) acts in violation of the Lobbyist Code.
To be clear, then, unless pre-approved by the Integrity Commissioner, those individuals or clients with active lobbying files shall not offer a public office holder any gift, benefit or hospitality.
Pursuant to Part V of the Lobbyist Registry By-law “Sanctions and Penalties,” I may impose a temporary ban on lobbying communication if I find that the requirements of the By-law, including the requirement that lobbyists adhere to their Code when lobbying public office holders, have not been met. In accordance with a scheme outlined in the By-law, the length of the temporary ban increases with the lobbyist’s second and third breaches. As the By-law also states, if I impose a temporary ban on communication, I shall notify all Senior Public Office Holders and notice of the ban shall be posted on the City’s website.
I encourage you to review the By-law and the Lobbyist Code of Conduct, and to be aware of all of your obligations under the Code. If under special circumstances you wish to consult the Commissioner about a possible exemption to the gift, benefit or hospitality prohibition, please feel free to contact my office.
Finally, given these provisions, I would like to remind you of the importance of marking a lobbying file “closed” when all substantive communications regarding that file have concluded and no further lobbying is anticipated or required on the file. For more information on closing a lobbying file, please see the Interpretation Bulletin “Closing a lobbying file.”
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or concerns.Robert Marleau
Office of the Integrity Commissioner
Bureau du commissaire à l’intégrité
110 Laurier Avenue West/Ouest
Ottawa, ON K1P 1J1