On July 8, 2014, Ontario's Deputy Premier Deb Matthews
introduced Bill 8, the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and
Transparency Act, 2014 (Bill). An identical bill had
previously been introduced in March, but died on the order paper
when a provincial election was called. The Bill introduces proposed
amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act of 1998
(Act), which are outlined in Schedule 8 of the Bill. It also enacts
new legislation relating to public sector executive compensation
and amends a number of existing laws.
CHANGES TO DISCLOSURE RULES
Changes have also been proposed to the existing requirements for
filing returns with the Integrity Commissioner, who acts as the
Lobbyist Registrar of Ontario (Registrar). Several of these changes
confirm existing understandings or bring the legislation in line
with regimes enforced in most other Canadian jurisdictions.
Definition of In-House Lobbyist
An "in-house" lobbyist would include paid directors
and the thresholds for in-house lobbyists would be
organization-wide. In other words, registration would always be
required if lobbying activities – in the aggregate across an
organization – constitute a significant part of the duties of
one employee or director.
Content of Returns
At the time of registration, disclosure must include not just
the subject matter of lobbying, but also the specific goal of
lobbying. Returns have to name the target of lobbying if that
target is a minister, member of provincial parliament, or any of
their respective staff members. Lobbyists have to disclose whether
the lobbyist was, at any time prior to filing the return, a former
public office holder in a number of enumerated roles. Unlike the
federal regime, there is no time limit on this and it extends to
all ministers, deputy ministers, associated and assistant deputy
ministers, all Minister's Office staff, and all employees of
any agency who report to the chief executive of that agency.
Returns have to be renewed within 30 days (not two months) of
the applicable year for consultants or a six-month period for
in-house. Notably, a single in-house return would now be filed by a
chief executive or other senior officer, not multiple returns by
individual in-house lobbyists.
CONTINGENCY PAYMENTS AND CONFLICTS OF
The Bill introduces blanket prohibitions on any contingency fees
paid to consultant lobbyists, in whole or in part, and voids any
existing provision providing for a contingency payment. A one-year
grandfathering clause applies to existing contingency payment
provisions in contracts.
Regarding conflicts of interest, the existing prohibition
against a consultant lobbyist accepting payment from public funds
or from an agency that is prohibited from engaging lobbyists
continues to apply, and the Bill codifies a prohibition on
consultant lobbyists providing advice to a public office holder
while lobbying any public office holder on the same subject matter
(or vice versa).
NEW POWERS FOR THE REGISTRAR
The Bill would grant the Registrar significant new investigative
Conducting an investigation into a violation of the Act. The
investigation would still need to occur within two years of when it
knew or ought to have known about the alleged non-compliance.
Compelling a person to provide information or documents that
may be relevant to an investigation, to issue summons, and to apply
for an order from the Superior Court of Justice directing a person
to provide information or documents. The Registrar would be
required to give notice to the person being investigated only after
the investigation is complete and only if the Registrar believes
the Act or its associated regulations have been breached. The
investigated person will then have an opportunity to respond to the
Issuing a code of conduct for lobbyists. This authorization
goes beyond the Registrar's current powers under the Act to
issue interpretation bulletins and advisory opinions.
The Bill also proposes harsher penalties for violating the Act
and regulations. The Bill gives the Registrar the authority to
punish a violation with a ban on lobbying for up to two years, or
by publishing the name of the non-complying lobbyist and details of
his or her offence. Moreover, the Act's current maximum fine of
C$25,000 will apply only to a first offence, with subsequent
offences being punishable by a fine of up to C$100,000
The Bill still must undergo its second and third reading as well
as the committee stage. If passed, it may still be subject to
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