The City of Ottawa lobbyist registry was launched Sept. 1, on
schedule, and its scope touches any company that interacts with
The objective of the new law is to ensure that lobbying of City
officials is both transparent (so that the public will know exactly
who is trying to influence municipal decisions) and ethical. The
latter goal is achieved through a Code of Conduct that regulates
Implementation of a lobbyist registry was a key campaign promise
made by Jim Watson during the 2010 municipal election. Mayor Watson
has not only delivered on the promise, but has led City Council to
adopt a lobbying transparency law that is broader and more robust
than originally proposed.
While By-law No. 2012- 309, formally "A by-law of the City
of Ottawa to establish a lobbyist registry and establish the
position and duties of the Lobbyist Registrar of the City of
Ottawa," was passed by City Council on Aug. 29, its key
elements were approved July 11.
Civic officials made history by achieving successful
implementation – including a functioning registry
– within only nine weeks. Canadian governments (e.g.,
City of Toronto) typically take a full year to launch lobbyist
registries. Of 10 broad-based lobbying laws in the country, only
one was implemented more swiftly than Ottawa's.
In another historic step, the City simultaneously appointed
Robert Marleau as the Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar
who will oversee the registry and enforce its rules. Eminently
qualified for the role, Mr. Marleau is a former clerk of the House
of Commons and a former federal information commissioner.
Within the business community, the By-law will cover
consultants, company employees, and anyone (paid or unpaid) who
represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying
to influence a municipal decision.
Those lobbying must report on their communications with any
elected official and any City employee (regardless of level or
position), within 10 days of the communication.
Business leaders familiar with the federal and provincial
lobbyist registries will note certain significant features of the
Each individual employee must file his or her own reports of
lobbying activity. (Under federal law a company CEO files one
report covering all employees.)
There is no 20 per cent minimum threshold to trigger the
reporting requirement. All lobbying, in any amount, must be
reported on the registry.
Each lobbying communication, including the topic and the names
of the City officials being lobbied, must be separately
The rules cover not only lobbying of City officials and
employees, but lobbying of consultants engaged by the City, if the
consultants are lobbied while providing services to the City.
Those who lobby will find that Web-based registration is both
simple and user-friendly. City officials have succeeded in
developing a process that is intuitive, understandable and speedy.
Especially welcome is the fact that no paperwork is required to use
the Internet registry. (Many jurisdictions make users sign
documentation the old-fashioned way before they are permitted to
use online registration.) Another helpful design feature links the
registry to the City's employee database, so that a lobbyist
can easily identify the City officials whom he or she lobbied. The
City of Ottawa registration process is probably the easiest in the
On the one hand, not all communications with City officials are
covered by the By-law. For example, asking for information, making
a complaint, and participating in a City consultation process are
not considered lobbying. On the other hand, the By-law covers all
representatives who try to influence a City decision, not just
employees who work in the company's government relations
department. Businesses should familiarize themselves with the new
By-law and then review all their contacts with City of Ottawa
officials in its light.
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