Executive Summary – The Federal Lobbying System: The Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct

(Disponible en français : Résumé – Le système de lobbying à l’échelle fédérale : La Loi sur le lobbying et le Code de déontologie des lobbyistes)

The preamble to the Lobbying Act states that free and open access to government is an important matter of public interest, that lobbying public office holders is a legitimate activity, that it is desirable for public office holders and the public to be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities, and that a system for the registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government.

In 2008, substantive amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act came into force; it was renamed the Lobbying Act because it now focused on regulating the activities of lobbyists rather than simply monitoring them through a registration system.

The current Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct, which came into force on 1 December 2015, sets out the ethical standards that lobbyists are required to meet in order to conserve public confidence in “the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government decision-making.” As such, it complements the disclosure and registration requirements of the Lobbying Act.

The following legislative amendments resulted from the adoption of the Lobbying Act:

  • replacement of the position of Registrar of Lobbyists with that of Commissioner of Lobbying, an independent officer of Parliament, with expanded investigative powers and an education mandate;
  • identification of a new category of public office holder within the federal government, called Designated Public Office Holder (DPOH), a key decision‑maker in government;
  • imposition of a five-year post-employment prohibition on a DPOH becoming a lobbyist once that individual has left office;
  • new filing requirements for lobbyists and an obligation, when requested by the Commissioner of Lobbying, for DPOHs or former DPOHs to confirm information that is provided by lobbyists about communications with DPOHs;
  • a ban on making or receiving any payment or other benefit that is contingent on the outcome of any consultant lobbyist’s activity; and
  • extension from two to 10 years of the period during which possible infractions or violations under the Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct may be investigated and prosecution may be initiated.

In 2011 and 2012, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics conducted the five-year statutory parliamentary review of the Lobbying Act. The committee tabled a report in the House of Commons, which contained 11 recommendations on amending the Act, but none of these recommendations have resulted in legislative amendment to date. While the parliamentary review of the Lobbying Act is supposed to take place every five years as provided for in the Act, the second review should have taken place in 2017 but had not yet occurred at the time this paper was revised.

Read the full text of the Background Paper: The Federal Lobbying System: The Lobbying Act and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct

Authors: Nancy Holmes and Dara Lithwick, Library of Parliament
Revised by: Alexandra Savoie and Maxime-Olivier Thibodeau, Library of Parliament