Canada: Lobbying Legislation Reform In Quebec: What You Need To Know

On June 12, Mr. Jean-Marc Fournier, Minister responsible for Access to Information and the Reform of Democratic Institutions, tabled Bill 56, Lobbying Transparency Act. This Bill seeks to replace the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act1 and promote greater transparency.

Key concepts

"Public Office Holders" (s. 9)

  • The definition has been entirely rewritten to make it more encompassing or to clarify the general terms used in the preceding Act. In particular:
    • It makes specific reference to the members of the Conseil Exécutif (Cabinet Ministers) and an "office" staff within the meaning of the Executive Power Act.2.
    • It also applies to:
      • members of agglomeration councils, and the members of the council, officers or personnel members of supramunicipal bodies;3
      • members of the boards of directors, officers and personnel members of bodies that are mandataries or agents of a municipality, under certain conditions;
      • members of the board of directors, officers or personnel members of a government agency within the meaning of the Auditor General Act4, with certain exceptions;
      • persons engaged by contract to hold the position of a public office holder and persons whose services are retained by a public institution or by a public office holder with regard to a decision that the institution or public office holder must make – in particular, the awarding of a contract.
  • The Bill proposes excluding persons appointed to non-profit agencies established for the purpose of managing and providing financial support for activities of a public nature out of funds originating principally from the Government, without itself delivering products or services to the public.
  • The definition specifically excludes members of the boards of directors, officers and personnel members of public health and social services institutions governed by the Act respecting health services and social services.5

"Lobbying Activities" (s. 12)

  • The Bill specifies that any oral or written communication with a public office holder constitutes lobbying if it is done in an attempt to influence or is capable of influencing – at any stage in the process, not just the final stage – the decisions enumerated in Section 12 of the Bill.
  • All contracts, including those awarded through public calls for tenders, will be subject to the Act (with some exceptions).
  • An oral communication to obtain a contract or financial assistance with a value of $5,000 or less will no longer constitute a lobbying activity.
  • The Act will apply to communications relating to grants, subsidies, gifts or other forms of financial assistance granted on better-than-market terms.
  • Sections 42 to 47 of the Bill provide guidance and restrictions on lobbying activities by current and former public office holders.
  • The following will not be considered lobbying activities:
    • submitting a bid in response to a public call for tenders;
    • inquiring as to the status of a file;
    • communicating with a public office holder in the manner and about the subject matters specified in tender documents;
    • reporting any non-compliance or irregularity relating to a call for tenders using the procedure established for that purpose;
    • communicating with a public office holder at the express request of the latter, provided such communication does not arise out of a previous intervention by the lobbyist and is limited to the subject matter of the request;
    • making the existence and characteristics of a product or service known, outside any contract award process.

Disclosure of lobbying activities (ss. 16 to 21)

  • Important change: the return for the mandate regarding the lobbying activity must be filed in the registry of lobbyists before the lobbying activity is conducted and within the prescribed time. If the first lobbying activity was unplanned, the return must be filed no later than the fifth business day following the start of the activity.
  • In addition, enterprise lobbyists and organization lobbyists will no longer be registered by the most senior officer of the enterprise or organization but by the lobbyist him or herself (s. 17), who will be required to provide detailed information for each mandate. The same rule will apply in the case of quarterly reports (s. 22).
  • No lobbying activity may be conducted if the period covered by the mandate has expired. The period covered by the mandate may not exceed one year, but if the mandate has not been completed by the end of the period, it may be extended. No extension period may exceed one year.

Quarterly reports (ss. 22-23)

  • Lobbyists will be required to make a detailed quarterly report of their lobbying activities within the first 10 days of the months of May, August, November and February, in the manner and form determined by the Commissioner.

Types of lobbyists

  • It will no longer be necessary for a person who lobbies for a third person to do so in return for compensation for that person to be considered a "consultant lobbyist."
  • Enterprise lobbyists and organization lobbyists will now be required to register even if lobbying is not a "significant part" of their job.
  • Non-profit agencies, groups not constituted as legal persons and persons who lobby for entities related to profit-seeking enterprises will be covered by the Act, subject to certain exceptions.

Other changes

  • Public office holders will be required to ensure that any lobbyist conducting a lobbying activity files a return for his or her mandate in the registry of lobbyists. (s. 37)
  • No lobbying activity may be conducted with regard to a contract to be awarded through a public call for tenders between the time the call for tenders is published and the time the contract is awarded (s. 38).
  • The Commissioner will be responsible for keeping the registry in accordance with the procedure prescribed by regulation.

Penalties

  • Monetary administrative penalties of up to $500 will be imposed on lobbyists who do not comply with the time limits for registration in the registry.
  • The minimum fines will be higher, reaching as much as $3,000 for most offences.
  • Anyone who advises, encourages, incites or induces another person to commit an offence under the Act will be liable to a minimum fine of $5,000.
  • The imposition of a disciplinary measure or a penal proceeding will be prescribed three years after the breach or offence occurred.

Next steps

  • The Bill was tabled at the end of the parliamentary session and no date has so far been set for possible public consultations, although such consultations are expected shortly. With some exceptions (s. 142), the new law is scheduled to come into force 24 months after it is assented to.

Footnotes

1. CQLR, c T-11.011.

2. CQLR, c E-18.

3. s. 9(7).

4. CQLR, c V-5.01.

5. CQLR,, c S-4.2.

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