Ontario tightens screws on lobbying; stiffer penalties for violations

lobbyistsOntario is tightening the rules on lobbyists and proposing stiffer penalties, as part of its commitment to openness and accountability. An official statement said the oversight over lobbying would be strengthened and there would be  enhanced transparency of the Lobbyists’ Registry.

In 2014, Ontario passed the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, which included the modernization of the Lobbyist Registration Act, 1998. The changes to the Lobbyist Registration Act reflect many of the recommendations made by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner.

They will give the Integrity Commissioner, as Lobbyist Registrar, the authority to investigate alleged violations of the Act, the ability to prohibit lobbying for up to two years and the ability to provide guidance and direction on lobbyist conduct. The amendments will also strengthen enforcement provisions, including stiffer fines upon a conviction under the Act–up to $25,000 for a first-time offence, and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences.

Lobbyists will also be subject to new rules, including:

  • A lower threshold for the mandatory registration of lobbying activity, requiring businesses and organizations to register when lobbying activity by their paid staff totals 50 hours per year or more
  • A conflict-of-interest provision that prohibits lobbyists from lobbying and providing paid advice on the same subject matter at the same time
  • A ban on “contingency fees,” where lobbyists accept fees contingent on a particular lobbying outcome
  • A single set of rules that apply to in-house lobbyists at both for-profit and non-profit organizations.

The amendments to the Lobbyist Registration Act will take effect on July 1, 2016.

Creating a more transparent and accountable government is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number-one priority to grow the economy and create jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.

  • Amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act, 1998 are Schedule 8 of the Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014, which aims to strengthen accountability, oversight and transparency across government and the broader public sector, and supports Ontario’s Open Government Initiative.
  • The Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014 received Royal Assent on December 11, 2014. The Act has 11 schedules. Each schedule of the Act comes into force on a day to be named by proclamation of the Lieutenant Governor.
  • The Integrity Commissioner is an independent Officer of the Legislative Assembly. As Lobbyist Registrar, the Integrity Commissioner is responsible for the implementation of the amendments to the Lobbyist Registration Act. – CINEWS

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