On July 1, 2016, substantive amendments to the Lobbyist Registration Act, 1998 (LRA) will come into force. Highlights of these amendments include new investigative and enforcement powers for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner (OICO) as Lobbyists Registrar, extended renewal periods and new questions on the registration form completed by all lobbyists, requiring greater detail about the goal of their lobbying activity. The Integrity Commissioner is urging all lobbyists to carefully review the LRA and familiarize themselves with the changes.
Amendments to the LRA
Amendments to the LRA include a shorter filing timeline for consultant lobbyists; lowered registration for in-house lobbyists and a shifting of the registration/filing responsibility from the in-house lobbyists to a “senior office” of the employer; and an expansion of the scope of the registrar’s powers.
Key differences between the current LRA and the amendments coming into force on July 1, 2016 are set out below.
Additions to the LRA
Beyond the amendments highlighted above, there have been significant additions to the LRA. These additions are aimed at ensuring the LRA is a more robust piece of legislation bolstering the powers of OICO as a lobbyists registrar.
Prohibitions on Consultant Lobbyists
Under the amended LRA, consultant lobbyists are prohibited from lobbying under the following conditions:
In addition, consultant lobbyists must not knowingly place public office holders in a position of real or potential conflict of interest.
New Disclosure Requirements for All Lobbyists
Lobbyist registrations will now require the subject matter of lobbying, the goals of their lobbying and the name of the target of the lobbying (be it a minister or other member of the Legislative Assembly).
Additionally, consultant lobbyists and in-house lobbyists must disclose if they have ever been any of the following:
New Investigative, Regulatory and Enforcement Powers for the Registrar
The registrar will hold significant powers of investigation, including the ability to commence an investigation into an alleged non-compliance with the LRA for a period of two years after the date when the registrar knew or should have known about the alleged non-compliance and the ability to refuse to investigate a matter, refer the matter to another person or body, suspend an investigation and resume a previously suspended investigation.
In conducting an investigation, the registrar may require any person to provide and produce information and documents on a specific date and may summon any person to attend in person or by electronic means.
If the registrar determines after conducting an investigation that a person has not complied with a provision of the LRA, the registrar shall:
If the registrar determines after conducting an investigation and after giving the person a chance to be heard that a person has not complied with a provision of the LRA, the registrar shall give notice to the person setting out:
The person receiving notice of the regsitrar’s finding may apply for reconsideration of the decision within 15 days of notice and the registrar’s decision is also subject to judicial review.
As a penalty, the registrar may prohibit the person from lobbying for a period of not more than two years; and/or make public certain information regarding the persons’ non-compliance with the LRA.
Finally, it is important to note that there is a whistle-blowing protection policy which prohibits retaliation against persons for aiding in the enforcement of the LRA.
These amendments and additions, the first since the LRA’s inception in 1988, represent the maturing of the lobbyist registration system in Ontario and it is important that lobbyists familiarize themselves with these new rules to ensure compliance.
Please contact our Government Relations team for all your questions regarding compliance with the new rules.
The contribution of Xi Chen, articling student, in the preparation of this article is gratefully acknowledged.