Canada: Crack-Down On Unregistered Lobbying Continues: Clients Of Consultants Should Ensure They Are Protected

Last Updated: December 4 2012
Article by Guy W. Giorno and Sean McGurran

The recent investigation into unregistered lobbying by Julie Couillard1 serves as a warning, not only to consultants who communicate with government, but also to their clients. 

Consultants should note the continuing effort of the federal Commissioner of Lobbying, and her office, to crack down on unregistered lobbying. Meanwhile, clients of consultants should pay better attention to whether the consultants are complying with all relevant rules, including the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct. A client should also ensure that its contract with a consultant insulates and protects the client in the event of a breach.

The Investigation Findings

The Commissioner concluded that Ms Couillard failed to register as a consultant lobbyist under the Lobbyists Registration Act (now the Lobbying Act)2 when she communicated with federal public office holders on behalf of her client, a Montreal-based property development company. Ms Couillard had been paid to communicate with federal public office holders at the Department of Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC) concerning a request for proposals (RFP) for the construction and leasing of an office building in Quebec City.

Ms Couillard's actions also violated the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct. She breached the principle of professionalism, as well as rules requiring each lobbyist to provide accurate information to public office holders and to inform the client of obligations under the Code and the Lobbyists Registration Act. Violation of the Code does not carry a penalty,3 but being the subject of a detailed report to Parliament and of subsequent news media coverage is a significant deterrent.

Registerable Lobbying Did Occur

Ms Couillard had entered into two contracts with her client. The first was a five-month consulting agreement between the client and Ms Couillard's company, ITEK Global Solutions Inc. ITEK was paid monthly fees to help draft a response to the RFP. At the same time, Ms Couillard personally entered into a one-year commission agreement, under which she was to represent the client in negotiations with PWGSC for the leasing of office space in connection with the same RFP.

Ms Couillard made several arguments in her defence.  She argued that her communications with public office holders were simply an effort to ensure that the client's proposal was "complete and up-to-date."  She also argued that she was not required to register as a lobbyist because the consulting contract was between the client and ITEK (Ms Couillard's company), not between the client and her personally.

The Commissioner rejected these arguments.  She concluded that Ms Couillard's activities, whether on behalf of ITEK or not, were registrable communications under subparagraph 5(1)(a)(vi) of the Lobbyists Registration Act4in respect of "the awarding of any contract by or on behalf of Her Majesty in right of Canada." Both contracts recognized that Ms Couillard would be the person providing the services, and so she was responsible for registering any lobbying activities under either agreement. Simply put, lobbyists cannot use a corporation as an intermediary to avoid registration requirements.

An exemption in the Act states that requesting information from government officials is not registerable lobbying. Ms Couillard had been asking various questions of the Government, including "whether it was worthwhile [for her client] to submit a proposal" and "whether [the tendering process] was progressing well." Clearly, this questioning went beyond merely seeking information, as it hit at the core of the Government's decision. The Commissioner had no trouble deciding that it was registerable lobbying and the exemption did not apply.

Lesson for Clients (and Employers)

Unfortunately, Ms Couillard's client received considerable, negative publicity, even though the client did not violate any rules. The client was named in most of the news media stories and the coverage was not favourable.

The Commissioner found that Ms Couillard's client "was unaware of her obligation to register as a consultant lobbyist acting on its behalf."  It was Ms Couillard's responsibility to make the client aware of her obligations under federal lobbying law, and by failing to inform her client she breached the Lobbyists Code of Conduct.

While the burden of registration lies on each consultant lobbyist, this incident demonstrates the serious, adverse impact on the client in the event of a lobbying transgression. A client should consider these potential impacts and ensure that the consulting contract contains adequate protection.

Standard government-relations consulting contracts do not contain explicit assurances that lobbying transparency/lobbying ethics laws will be honoured. A client should insist on such language, and on an adequate remedy in the event of a breach.

The lesson of this case is not just for those clients who know they are hiring lobbyists. What constitutes registerable lobbying may not always be clear to the client. Therefore, a client who hires a consultant (or other third party) in any matter involving a provincial or federal government should ensure that the contract language addresses the potential application of lobbying law.

An employer, too, should ensure that its employment contracts address the need for compliance with lobbying law – and for cooperation with the filing obligation of the CEO. Training of employees, and due diligence, are other components of an appropriate compliance regime.


1.Canada, Commissioner of Lobbying, Report on Investigation – The Lobbying Activities of Julie Couillard (October 23, 2012):

2.The Lobbyists Registration Act was in force at the time of the activities covered in the report.

3.Violation of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct is not an offence. However, the Commissioner publicizes the violation by presenting a report of her findings to the House of Commons and the Senate.

4.Now subparagraph 5(1)(a)(vi) of the Lobbying Act.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.