Canada: New Federal Lobbying Act In Force July 2: CEOs Face Increased Potential Liability

Last Updated: May 29 2008
Article by Guy W. Giorno

Changes include potential imprisonment for strict liability offence

Canada's new, strengthened Lobbying Act (currently known as the Lobbyists Registration Act) will take effect July 2, 2008. Corporate CEOs, chief executives of non-profit organizations, and individuals who communicate with government have less than two months to prepare for compliance.

Among the most significant amendments are the following:

  • Clients of consultant lobbyists will be prohibited from paying, and consultant lobbyists will be prohibited from receiving, success fees.

  • The maximum fine for breach of the act will increase to $200,000.

  • The strict liability offence of failure to file a return (including failure to file accurately, completely or on time) will be punishable by fine or imprisonment.

  • The Act will create a new category of federal official, called a "designated public office holder." Designated public office holders will be subject to new post-service restrictions and obligations, and lobbyists and their employers will be subject to new requirements when they deal with designated public office holders.

  • Corporate CEOs and chief executives of non-profit organizations will be required to file returns every month.1 The current requirement is semi-annual reporting.

  • The position of Registrar will be eliminated and replaced by that of the Commissioner of Lobbying, a new, independent officer accountable directly to Parliament.

  • Designated public office holders will be prohibited from lobbying for five years after they leave office or employment. However, the ban is not airtight; there is some, limited scope for lobbying by former public servants who accept positions with business corporations.2

Detailed Monthly Reporting

Among the most significant amendments to the Act is the requirement for detailed monthly returns from consultant lobbyists and from organizations and corporations that employ in-house lobbyists.

A monthly return must be filed by the 15th day of each month. Its content will cover the activity during the preceding month.

The monthly return will not report on all communication with public office holders. It will only cover communication "involving" a designated public office holder and then only where the communication is oral, arranged in advance and not initiated by a public office holder.3

Thus, letters and e-mails, including BlackBerry PIN communications, do not need to be mentioned in the detailed monthly returns. Lobbying that occurs without prior arrangement, such as at a reception, sporting event, restaurant or bar, does not need to be mentioned in the detailed monthly returns.

A monthly return must state, for each communication involving a designated public office holder (provided that the communication is oral, arranged in advance and not initiated by a public office holder):

  • Name and title of the designated public office holder.

  • Name of the designated public office holder's department or government institution, and the particular branch or unit.

  • Date of the communication.

  • Subject-matter of the communication.

However, in the case of in-house lobbying, the Act does not require identification of the particular employee or officer who engaged in a specific communication with a designated public office holder.

Enforcement by the New Commissioner

Parliament has not yet approved the selection of the new Commissioner of Lobbying, and the federal Cabinet has not announced whether it intends to exercise its power under subs. 4.1(4) to make an interim appointment for up to six months.

As of July 2, the current Registrar, Michael Nelson, will have authority to act as the Commissioner of Lobbying until Cabinet makes an interim appointment or a Commissioner is appointed following approval by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.

Also effective July 2, every employee of the Office of the Registrar becomes an employee occupying the same position in the Office of the Commissioner.

The Commissioner will possess broader investigative authority than the Registrar and will face a lower threshold for launching an investigation.

Currently, the Registrar only has power to investigate a breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct, and then only "Where the registrar believes on reasonable grounds that a person has breached the Code ..."

Under the new provisions, the Commissioner of Lobbying shall conduct an investigation "if he or she has reason to believe ... that an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance with the Code or this Act, as applicable." This makes clear the power to investigate non-compliance with the Act. It also lowers the threshold for commencing an investigation, from the belief that a breach has occurred to the belief that an investigation is necessary to ensure compliance.

The current Act requires the Registrar to suspend an investigation if he or she believes that the person has committed an offence under any federal or provincial Act or the same subject-matter is the subject of a law-enforcement investigation or a charge has been laid. The new legislation will impose a similar requirement on the Commissioner.

An investigation report shall be submitted to Parliament. The Commissioner has the discretion to include in the report details of payments, expenses and disbursements, names of lobbyists, and details of communications with public office holders.

Executives Face Increased Fines, Imprisonment for Strict Liability Offence

Under current Act, chief executives are already responsible for reporting on the lobbying activities of employees who work for their company or non-profit organization. In the event of non-compliance, the officer responsible for filing the return (i.e., the CEO, not the employee and not the corporation) would be the one subject to potential prosecution.

The new Act will double to $50,000 (summary conviction) and $200,000 (indictment) the maximum fines for the mens rea offence of knowingly making a false or misleading statement in any return or other document submitted to the Commissioner. The maximum prison sentence for the mens rea offence remains unchanged: six months (summary) or two years (indictment).

More significantly, failure to file a return — a strict liability offence — will become subject to the same penalties as the mens rea offence of knowingly making a false or misleading statement: $50,000 fine or six months' imprisonment or both (summary conviction), and $200,000 fine or two years imprisonment or both (indictment).

The Act describes the offence as failing "to file a return as required under subsection 5(1) or (3) or 7(1) or (4)," which would also include filing inaccurately or filing incompletely. As noted, this is an offence even if the inaccurate or incomplete filing does not occur knowingly, yet the penalties will be the same as for the mens rea offence of knowingly making a false or misleading statement.

All other offences under the Act will remain subject only to summary prosecution and conviction. The maximum fine for these offences will be doubled to $50,000.

The limitation period for summary prosecutions under the Act will be five years after the Commissioner became aware of the subject-matter of the proceedings, but no later than ten years after the subject matter of the proceedings arose. This represents an increase from the current limitation period of two years after the time when the subject-matter of the proceedings arose.

For more information on compliance with the new federal Lobbying Act, please contact the author.


1 A return only needs to be filed if the overall amount of lobbying by a corporation's employees meets the threshold established under the Act. Essentially, reporting is required once the total amount of lobbying reaches 0.2 FTE.

2 The five-year cooling-off period only applies to activity that would require an individual to be named on a return filed under the Act. It does not apply in circumstances where a threshold for reporting is not reached.

3 The exception is that communication about awarding a federal government grant, contribution or other financial benefit will be subject to detailed monthly reporting even if the communication is initiated by a public office holder.

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.