Your guide to understanding the federal lobbying rules and the lobbyists code of conduct

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1 Your guide to understanding the federal lobbying rules and the lobbyists code of conduct This guide explains the registration and reporting obligations that credit union staff and directors (as well as Centrals and CCUA) have to follow in our communications with legislators and officials at the federal level. It also includes information on the Lobbyists Code of Conduct that was updated in December The guide includes: Section 1: Registration requirements for federal lobbyists: Information to help your credit union determine whether or not you need to register with the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada (a decision tree is included as Figure 1) (see pages 3 & 4); Section 2: Reporting requirements for federal lobbyists: Once you ve registered, how often must you report? We ve prepared a Q & A to help understand your reporting requirements (see pages 5 & 6). Section 3: Code of Conduct requirements: Once you re a registered, you will need to comply with the Code of Conduct for lobbyists. We ve prepared a Q & A on the Code (see pages 7 & 8). Before you get started, here are five important things you need to know about federal lobbying rules that will be featured in this guide: 1. Not everyone who lobbies needs to register with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. 2. Directors who are being paid to lobby need to register. 3. Credit unions (or Centrals or CCUA) need to register if their lobbying activities constitutes a significant part of their staff s duties. 4. A lobbyist s responsibilities don t end with registering, you may need to report on your communications as well it depends on who you are meeting with. 5. Lobbyists are also required to follow a code of conduct to prevent creating a sense of obligation.

2 2 Section 1: Registration requirements for federal lobbyists The Lobbying Act defines lobbying as any communication (oral or written) with public office holders (a category that includes virtually every employee of the federal government, whether elected or appointed, in addition to political staff) concerning the making, developing or amending of federal legislative proposals, bills or resolutions, regulations, policies or programs or obtaining financial benefit such as a grant or contribution. However, not everyone who lobbies is required to register as a lobbyist. This section explains the registration requirements. Who needs to register as a federal lobbyist? Only those individuals who are paid to lobby are required to register under the Lobbying Act. In addition, the act sets out two kinds of paid lobbyists consultant lobbyists and inhouse lobbyists for whom different registration rules apply. Consultant lobbyists are those individuals who are not staff, but are otherwise paid to communicate or arrange meetings with legislators or government officials on behalf of the credit union (or a Central or CCUA). Government relations consultants, lawyers or other professional advisors generally fall into this category, however, credit union directors who are paid a per diem or other fee for communicating or arranging a meeting with a legislator or official will be treated as a consultant lobbyists. 1 Consultant lobbyists must register as individuals, separately from the credit union or association s registration. In-house lobbyists are employees of the credit union (or a Central or CCUA) who lobby on behalf of their employer as part of their job. An organization must register on the OLC Registry when one employee s lobbying duties constitutes a significant part of their overall duties, or when the total amount of time spent lobbying at the federal level by all paid employees of the organization equals 20% or more of the working hours of one employee. Once a credit union (or Central or CCUA) determines that it needs to register, all employees who engage in any federal lobbying activities with public office holders 2 on behalf of the organization - regardless if it constitutes at least 20% of their time - must be included on the organization s registry. The decision tree below will help you determine whether or not you need to register with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. If you do have to register, follow the link provided. Registering on-line is free and easy to complete. 1 Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. A Guide to Registration. [Accessed: November 25, 2013]. 2 The term public office holders refers to virtually every employee of the federal government, whether elected or appointed, in addition to political staff.

3 Figure 1: Lobbyist registration decision tree 3

4 4 Section 2: Reporting requirements for federal lobbyists Who needs to report on their lobbying activities? Once registered, lobbyists, whether consultant or in-house, may also be required to file monthly communications reports related to their lobbying activities with the Commissioner of Lobbying. However, not every communication is required to be reported to the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada. The reporting requirement is triggered by the category of public office holders they have been communicating with. The act sets out two categories of public office holders: Designated public office holders (DPOH): Lobbyists must report all arranged verbal communications with designated public office holders. Designated public office holders include: MPs; Senators; ministers, ministers of state, and their political staff; some staff working in the offices of the Leader of the Opposition in the House and in the Senate; deputy ministers, associate deputy ministers, assistant deputy ministers, and those of comparable rank; as well as any individual who occupies a position that has been designated by regulations. Other public office holders (POH): Lobbyists are not required to report arranged verbal communications with any other federal public office holders (POH) 3 other than designated public office holders (DPHO). The Commissioner of Lobbying requires that monthly communications reports be filed online on the 15 th of the month following the communication. The Q & A below will provide you with additional information on your reporting requirements. 3 The term public office holders refers to virtually every employee of the federal government, whether elected or appointed, in addition to political staff.

5 5 Q&A on reporting requirements for registered federal lobbyists Note: This Q & A does not cover all of the reporting requirements (click here to access the Lobbying Act). QUESTION Do I need to report every communication I have with a public office holder (POH) in the Registry? When do I need to report communications with designated public office holder (DPOH)? ANSWER No, you are only required to report communications (oral and arranged) on matters that constitute lobbying with designated public office holders (DPOH) (see definition above). You are required to file a monthly return no later than 15 days after the end of every month, if an oral and arranged communication with a designated public office holder took place during the month being reported upon. You do not have to report written communications with designated public office holders. Do I need to report an oral communication with a designated public office holder that was initiated by the DPOH itself? Note: Oral communications include: telephone conversations/teleconferences, meetings, or any other verbal communication (for example, a communication that takes place over the Internet using VoIP or other modern technologies). An arranged communication is one that has been arranged in advance, and where: there is a request made; the request is accepted; and there is a time interval between the request and the communication. No, you are not required to report an oral communication with a designated public office holder that was initiated by the DPOH, unless it is related to a financial contribution (e.g. grant).

6 6 QUESTION Do I need to report a meeting (or any arranged oral communications) with a local MP? Do I need to report an unplanned meeting with a designated public office holder or a public office holder? CCUA encouraged me to contact my MP or another DPOH; will CCUA report this meeting on my credit union s behalf? ANSWER Yes, you are required to file a return for a meeting you have had with a local MP or with any DPOH, but only if you or your organization is registered as an in-house lobbyist or if you are a consultant lobbyist (see section 3 to know if you are an in-house or consultant lobbyist). This reporting requirement also applies if you are meeting with a local MP at the request of your national trade association (e.g. Hike the Hill at Home or Hike the Hill). No, you are never required to report any type of encounter with a public office holder and you are not required to file a monthly return with respect to an unplanned meeting with a designated public office holder. A return must only be filed if an arranged communication with a designated public office holder takes place. No. CCUA will not report lobbying activities of individual credit unions in response to grassroots appeals. Credit unions are responsible for their own lobbyist registration and reporting. Please review the section Who needs to register as a federal lobbyist? to understand if your credit union is required to register as an in-house lobbyist.

7 7 Section 3: Code of Conduct requirements On December 1 st 2015, the new Code of Conduct for federal lobbyists came into force. Credit union advocates who are paid to conduct government relations at the federal level are required to comply with the Code. This section will help you better understand the requirements of the Code, how it interacts with the federal Lobbying Act and your responsibilities for compliance. What is the purpose of the Code? The new Code developed by the Commissioner of Lobbying aims to ensure that lobbyists behave in a manner that is transparent and that avoids putting public office holders (POH) (i.e. virtually every employee of the federal government, whether elected or appointed, in addition to political staff) into a potential conflict of interest situation. To achieve this, it lays out principles and rules that paid federal lobbyists must follow to ensure that their activities are done ethically and with the highest standard. Notable changes between the new Code and its previous version The first version of the Code came into effect in This new version, which came into effect on December 1, 2015, clarifies the area of conflict of interest and prohibits: Lobbying officials with whom one shares a relationship close enough to create a sense of obligation. Providing hospitality, gifts, favours or benefits to any federal official who is being lobbied or will be lobbied. Lobbying an official by someone who helped the official get elected. Who does it apply to? The Code applies to: 1) CEOs of credit unions, Centrals or CCUA who are required to submit a registration with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying on behalf of their employees who engage in lobbying (see section 3 to know if you are required to file registration on behalf of your employees); and 2) Employees who are paid to conduct government relations at the federal level on behalf of their credit union, Central or CCUA (see section 3 to know if this applies to you). 3) Members of boards of directors who are required to register as consultant lobbyists. The difference between the Code and the Lobbying Act The Code complements the registration requirements set by the Lobbying Act. Unlike the Act and its related regulations, the Code has no statutory powers and carries no fines or jail terms. However, paid federal lobbyists are required to comply with the Code and can be publically named in reports if they are found to be non-compliant.

8 8 Q & A on the new Lobbyists Code of Conduct Note that all of the rules/principles of the Code are included here (click here for the full Code) or contact CCUA s government relations team at QUESTION Can I lobby a public office holder (POH) with whom I have a business or personal relationship? Can I arrange for another person a meeting with a public office holder (POH) with whom I share a personal or business relationship? Can I lobby a public office holder (POH) who I have helped to elect? Can I or my organization give a gift to federal politicians, political staff or government employees? ANSWER No, you cannot lobby a public office holder (POH) with whom you share a relationship that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation. 4 (Rule 8) No, you cannot arrange a meeting for another person with a public office holder with whom you share a relationship that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation. (Rule 7) No, a lobbyist should not lobby an MP who they have undertaken political activities for. This extends to lobbying their staff as well. (Rule 9) No, lobbyists are prohibited from giving or promising government officials including an official who is not being lobbied any gift, hospitality, favour, or other benefit, unless it is a normal expression of courtesy or protocol (i.e. offering coffee or tea at an early morning meeting). (Rule 10) 4 The Commissioner of Lobbying advises that the following relationships may create a sense of obligation : Friends: In this context, the Commissioner interprets friends to include relationships where a lobbyist and a public office holder share a close bond of friendship, a feeling of affection, or a special kinship that extends beyond simple association. To be clear, this would not include members of a lobbyist s broad social or business circle, where there is little emotional attachment. Family: In this context, the Commissioner interprets family to mean a lobbyist s immediate family, by blood or by marriage. This would include parents, siblings, children of the lobbyist, and those of their spouse/partner. Business: In this context, the Commissioner means a public office holder with whom a lobbyist is a business partner.

9 9 QUESTION Whose responsibility is it to ensure staff who lobby are aware of the Lobbying Act and Lobbyists Code of Conduct? Do I have to provide accurate and factual information to government officials? Do I have to disclose the organization (credit union, Central, or CCUA) on whose behalf I am communicating with federal politicians, political staff or government employees? ANSWER The most senior paid employee usually the CEO - must ensure that employees who lobby on behalf of the organization are properly trained and comply with lobbying policies. (Rule 4) Yes, lobbyists are required to take all reasonable measures to provide information that is accurate and factual. (Rule 2) Yes, lobbyists must state the nature of the relationship they have with the credit union, Central or CCUA (e.g. I sit on the board of directors ). (Rule 1)

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