Canada: Federal Lobbyists Registration Act Amendments to Come Into Force on June 20, 2005

With the regulations to the Act now finalized, this date will start the clock running on filing requirements for both consultant lobbyists and corporations or organizations that employ in-house lobbyists. Here, we provide an overview of transitional filing requirements and other key provisions.

Amendments to the federal Lobbyists Registration Act (LRA) will come into force on June 20, 2005. In addition, amendments to regulations to the LRA that set out administrative measures for complying with the LRA will also come into force on that date. We outlined the principal effects of the amendments upon corporations in an earlier Osler Update.

The amendments to the regulations were published for comment on December 18, 2004. The comment period ended on February 16, 2005. No substantive changes were made to the regulations as a result of comments received.

However, the Registrar has committed to issuing an interpretation of the term "to communicate" to respond to several comments and queries received during the consultation period. The Registrar has also committed to issuing an interpretation bulletin to clarify the disclosure requirements applicable to former public office holders.

Transitional Provisions: Filing Requirements

The coming into force of the amendments to the LRA on the June 20 effective date will start the clock running on filing requirements for both consultant lobbyists and corporations or organizations that employ in-house lobbyists. Consultant lobbyists and organizations that are already registered under the LRA as it read prior to the amendments coming into force, as well as consultant lobbyists, organizations and corporations that were not previously required to be registered, may be subject to the new filing requirements.

Consultant Lobbyists

If, on June 20, 2005, a consultant lobbyist is engaged in an undertaking, for payment, to lobby on behalf of any person or organization (whether by communicating with a public office holder in respect of a proscribed topic, or by arranging a meeting between a public office holder and any other person), the consultant lobbyist is required to file a return with the Lobbyists Registrar not later than two months after the effective date.

However, the consultant lobbyist will be deemed to have filed a return in respect of the undertaking if:

  • The consultant lobbyist filed a return in accordance with the old LRA within the five months before June 20, 2005,
  • There is no change to the information provided in that return, and
  • The consultant lobbyist has no knowledge of any information required to be provided under the amended LRA that was not provided in that return.

In-House Lobbyists – Corporations and Organizations

If, on June 20, 2005, a corporation or organization employs one or more individuals any part of whose duties include lobbying, and (i) those duties constitute a significant part of the duties of one employee, or (ii) would constitute a significant part of the duties of one employee if they were performed by only one employee, then the "officer responsible for filing returns" is required to file an information return on behalf of the corporation or organization with the Lobbyists Registrar no later than two months after the June 20 effective date.

The "officer responsible for filing returns" is the most senior officer in the corporation or organization who is compensated for his or her duties (generally, the chief executive officer).

While all corporations that meet the lobbying threshold described above as of the June 20 effective date must file this return prior to August 20, 2005, not all organizations will be required to file. The officer responsible for filing returns of an organization will be deemed to have filed the information return if:

  • A return was filed in accordance with the old LRA within the five-month period prior to June 20, 2005,
  • There is no change to the information provided in that return, and
  • The officer responsible for filing returns has no knowledge of any information required to be provided under the amended LRA that was not provided in that return.

"Organizations" are broadly defined in the LRA to include a wide range of entities, including partnerships. The definition has been amended to include trusts.

More Communications with Public Office Holders Covered

Before the amendments, only communications "in an attempt to influence" a federal public office holder mattered for purposes of the requirement to file an information return. As of June 20, 2005, any communication with a public office holder will be relevant for purposes of the filing requirement, whether or not the communication is made in an attempt to influence the public office holder, unless the LRA does not specifically apply (i.e., the communication is exempt).

Before the amendments, oral or written communications with public office holders in direct response to a written request from a public office holder for advice or comment in respect of the development, making or amendment of any federal law, regulation, policy or program or the awarding of any grant, contribution, federal contract or other financial benefit, were exempt communications. As of June 20, 2005, such communications are no longer exempt.

However, as of June 20, 2005, oral or written communications made to a public office holder that are restricted to requests for information are exempt.

Renewals and Changes

If lobbying is ongoing, the amended LRA requires consultant lobbyists, organizations and corporations to file a return renewing their respective registrations not later than 30 days after the expiry of every six-month period following the date of the most recent filing.

Where a consultant lobbyist or organization is deemed to have filed a transitional return as described above, the date the return was filed in accordance with the old LRA is deemed to be the date of the most recent filing.

Consultant lobbyists must also inform the Lobbyists Registrar about changes to information provided in a return (including newly acquired information, which the consultant lobbyist had no knowledge of at the time the most recent return was filed) within 30 days of the change or acquisition of the new information. The deadline for a consultant lobbyist who has provided such information to file a return renewing his/her registration then becomes no later than 30 days after the expiry of every six-month period after the provision of the information.

By contrast, corporations and organizations are required to advise the registrar within 30 days of the change if an employee who has been named in a return ceases performing lobbying duties or ceases employment. Other than that, corporations and organizations are not required to provide changes or newly acquired information to the Lobbyists Registrar. Such information would simply be included in the corporation or organization’s next renewal return.

Registrations Before June 20, 2005

Some features on the Website of the Lobbyists Registration Branch will not be available until June 20, 2005 as the Website is converted to the new system. In the interim, in lieu of filing information returns or renewals, registrants may complete a notification of intent (forms available on the Branch’s Website) that will serve as an official record of the date filing was attempted.

Authors credit: Michael Gough is a partner in Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP's Business Law Department. He specializes in health care law, government relations, including regulatory and legislative matters, legislative drafting, government procurement, protection of privacy and freedom of information, public law and regulatory affairs including public/private partnerships. Scott Wilkie is a senior partner in the Tax Department of the firm's Toronto office. He is one of the highest profile tax practitioners in Canada with particular expertise in international taxation, corporate taxation, taxation of financial transactions and transfer pricing. Robert Gate is an associate practising in the Taxation Department of the firm's Toronto office. A significant portion of Robert's practice relates to tax advice pertaining to employee and executive compensation matters.

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.

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