Canada: City Of Toronto Lobbyist Registry

On January 30, 2008, the Council for the City of Toronto enacted by-law 150-2007 (the "By-law") to create a lobbyist registry (the "Lobbyist Registry") to regulate communication outside of a public process between lobbyists and public office holders. The intention of the By-law is to make communication by or on behalf of special interests more transparent to ensure fairness and public confidence. The net effect now places the onus on lobbyists to register with the Lobbyist Registry prior to lobbying a public office holder on a subject matter. Registration is a continuing obligation on the part of the lobbyist as the By-law requires that the lobbyist register every new subject matter for which they intend to lobby for. Failure to register may result in a significant fine of up to $25,000 for the first conviction and $100,000 for a second or subsequent conviction.

Are You A Lobbyist?

A lobbyist is defined under the By-law as a person who communicates for payment with public office holders; a person who lobbies on a volunteer basis for a business; or a not-for-profit professional, business, industry, trade or labour organization or a consultant or voluntary lobbyist who arranges meetings between public office holders and any other person for the purpose of lobbying. The By-law creates three distinct categories of lobbyists:

  1. Consultant lobbyists are paid to lobby on behalf of their for-profit or not-for-profit clients.

  2. In-house lobbyists are employed by a business or a professional, business, industry, trade or labour not-for-profit association to lobby on behalf of their employer.

  3. Voluntary lobbyists volunteer to lobby for a business or not-for-profit organization.

What Type Of Communication Would Require A Lobbyist To Register?

Lobbying, as defined in Municipal Code Chapter 140 (amended), is the act of communicating (oral, written or electronic) with a public office holder on any of the following issues:

  1. Development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, bill or resolution on any matter by Council, a local board or a delegated decision maker.

  2. Development, approval, amendment or termination of a policy, program, directive or guideline.

  3. Procurement of goods, services or construction and awarding a contract.

  4. Approving, approving with conditions, or denying an application for a service, grant, planning approval, permit or other license or permission.

  5. Awarding of any financial contribution, grant or any other financial benefit by the City or local board.

  6. Transferring from the City or local board any interest in or asset of any business, enterprise or institution.

  7. Determining the model and method of delivering a service.

Does All Communication Require Registration?

Not all communication requires registration. Exempt communications include:

  1. Communicating with public office holders about an application that occurs during a public consultation process related to the application or in situations that are part of the public record, such as communication during a meeting of Council or a local board, a City-sponsored public meeting, hearing, open house, consultation or media event.

  2. Requesting information, materials, instructions, direction, etc. regarding services or programs.

  3. Providing compliments, making complaints or providing feedback on services or programs.

  4. Responding directly to a written request from a public office holder.

  5. Communicating about the application of a by-law or the administration of a policy or program.

  6. Making applications for a service, grant, planning approval, permit or licence or taking part in the formal application review or approval process.

  7. Submitting a bid as part of the procurement process and any permitted communication with designated officials.

  8. Communicating about a personal matter unless it is for the special benefit of the individual, business or organization.

Representatives of other municipal, provincial and federal governments, when acting in their official capacity, are exempt from registration, as are members of First Nations councils, school boards, foreign governments, or international organizations that represent their government members. Additionally, public office holders do not register to communicate with each other.

Who Is A Public Office Holder?

A public office holder includes the Mayor, Councillors and their staff, all City of Toronto employees (subject to some exceptions), members of most local boards and agencies, their staff and employees, and members of advisory boards and committees.

What Information Is Required To Register?

The Lobbyist Registry requires the following information be inserted into the electronic fields:

  1. Information about the lobbyist and the client, business or organization for which the lobbying is taking place.

  2. Subject matter of the lobbying activity to be undertaken.

  3. Name of the division or program of the City or local board the lobbyist expects to lobby.

  4. Name of the Member of Council or local board member or person on the member's staff the lobbyist expects to lobby.

  5. Communication methods that the lobbyist expects to use.

  6. Information about any elected, appointed or other senior City or local board position previously held by the lobbyist.

How Do I Register?

The City of Toronto has created a web-based link for registration, located at: http://www.toronto.ca/lobbying/registration.htm

Further information relating to this topic, including interpretation and advisory bulletins, is available on the City of Toronto's web page at http://www.toronto.ca/lobbying/.

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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