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Changes to the Lobbyist Code of Conduct

On May 26, the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying (OCL) tabled a revised Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (RC).

The Revised Code follows a consultation process on a number of proposed rule changes. The Revised Code will be formally published in the Canada Gazette in the near future and will then include the date the RC comes into effect.

Until that time, the existing 1997 Code remains in force. AFP will advise you once we know the coming into force date because it likely will impact whether you can invite public office holders to your charitable/community events.

It is best to understand that there is a Commissioner for Lobbyists and a Commissioner for Public Office Holders, and that their guidelines do not always agree. Of note: the Revised Code addresses the scope of the Code's application, to the role of 'most senior paid officer' in ensuring compliance, and with respect to some aspects of situations where lobbyists and public office holders have a previous relationship.

While the Revised Code brings a measure of clarity and consistency to some areas, there is some concern regarding certain areas. In particular Rule 8 has always been under interpretation.

 

"Reporting public office holders include members of parliament,
senators, ministers, parliamentary secretaries,
ministerial staff
and all full-time Governor in Council appointees such as deputy
ministers, heads of
Crown corporations and members of federal boards."

 

On April 28 of this year, Karen Shepherd, the commissioner of lobbying stated that “When a public office holder speaks at an event organized by a lobbyist that is over a meal time, it is an acceptable expression of courtesy to offer them a meal. In my opinion, the provision of a meal in such a case would not constitute a gift and would not create a problem under Rule 8 of the Code.”

Ms Shepherd goes on to say that “A lobbyist, however, offering free tickets to a public office holder to an event is different. This could create the appearance of a conflict of interest for that public office holder. Even if they are not currently lobbying that public office holder, they may lobby them in the future. Therefore, not giving a gift today is the best way to prevent the creation of a conflict tomorrow.” 

The complete text can be found at: https://ocl-cal.gc.ca/eic/site/012.nsf/eng/01100.html.

Of particular concern to AFP members is that the Revised Code seems cynical in its treatment of participation by public office holders in charitable and community events (suggesting that MPs and Public Office Holders may be unduly influenced if they accept a ticket to a dinner or lunch event).

We also note that the Revised Code continues to assume that elected and appointed officials cannot be trusted to act in the public interest when dealing with someone with whom they have a previous relationship.

Encouragingly, the OCL appears to have left the door open to consider further specificity around definitions and time frames with respects to gifts and relationships.

Even if you don’t qualify as a lobbyist I recommend you look at more specifics regarding fundraising and gifts which can be found on the website of the Commissioner of Ethics for Public Office Holders at http://ciec-ccie.parl.gc.ca/EN/ReportsAndPublications/Pages/GuidelineFundraising.aspx. You should pay particular attention to “Fundraising and the Conflict of Interest Act” and “Gifts (including Invitations, Fundraisers and Business Lunches)

The website of the Office of the Lobbyist Commissioner https://ocl-cal.gc.ca/eic/site/012.nsf/eng/h_00000.html is where, among other information, you can find the full text of the Lobbying Act, Ten Things You Need to Know about Lobbying and Prohibitions on Lobbying. If you lobby public office holders and are not yet registered with the OCL, this is where you will find the information to determine if you should be registered.

______________

Wendy Noble is an associate at Sussex Strategy Group where her focus is on Federal Government Relations. Wendy spent 10 years on Parliament Hill where she was a senior assistant to Cabinet Ministers the Hon. Jason Kenney and the Hon. Helena Guergis. She also served MPs John Weston and Marc Adler as well as Ontario MPP Lisa Macleod. In November of 2014 Wendy was named the fourth most influential lobbyist in Canada by Macleans magazine. http://www.macleans.ca/news/canada/behind-closed-doors-the-12-most-powerful-lobbyists-in-ottawa/ 

Wendy can be reached at wnoble@sussex-strategy.com or 613-782-2320.

 

Pull-quote: "Reporting public office holders include members of parliament, senators, ministers, parliamentary secretaries, ministerial staff and all full-time Governor in Council appointees such as deputy ministers, heads of Crown corporations and members of federal boards."



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