New requirements under the Federal Lobbying Act came into effect earlier this summer. The new regulations impose obligations on those engaged in any kind of lobbying activity at the federal level.
Canadian universities will continue to be considered under the act as in-house lobbyists and will now be required by the Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs to register their lobbying activities, disclosing any communications with designated public office holders, on a monthly basis.
York’s Government Relations Office is responsible for ensuring compliance with this law within York University and will file all the official disclosures.
Staff in the office have created a number of information documents to aid understanding of the new requirements. The information documents, as well as a communications reporting template, are now available on York’s Government Relations Office Web site. The documents offer useful information and will assist community members and York Government Relations staff in filing the required disclosures.
Important information regarding the Federal Lobbying Act and York University
York University is registered under the Lobbying Act by its most senior officer, York President & Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri, who must register and list personnel within the organization who lobby. Vice-presidents and deans are listed as a part of York’s registration.
Other faculty and staff members who are responsible for securing grant funding (excluding research grants provided by organizations with peer review processes) are required to be registered.
Only those listed on York’s registration are authorized to lobby on behalf of the institution.
Definition of ‘Lobbying’
Lobbying as defined by the act is communicating, any oral or arranged communications (excluding e-mail, letter and fax communications), with a designated public officer holder with respect to the following matters:
- the development of a legislative proposal;
- the introduction or amendment of a bill or resolution;
- making or amending any regulation, policy or program;
- the awarding of a tax credit or any other financial benefit; or
- the awarding of a non-peer reviewed grant or contribution by the federal government.
Designated Public Office Holders
The act creates a new class of public office holder known as Designated Public Office Holders (DPOH). These are certain officials responsible for high-level decision-making in government including, among others:
- A minister of the Crown
- Ministers of state
- Ministerial staff
- Members of the House of Commons or Senate and members of their staff
- Deputy ministers
- Associate and assistant deputy ministers
- Chief executives of departments and agencies, and officials in those organizations
Reporting of Communications: Monthly Returns
Universities are subject to the Lobbying Act as an in-house lobbyist and must register those engaged in all types of communication with designated public office holders.
York’s government relations officer will file a monthly disclosure by way of a return no later than 15 days after the end of every month if:
- any communication, oral or arranged, (excluding e-mail, letter and fax communications) with a designated public office holder took place during the month being reported upon;
- information contained in an active return is no longer correct or additional information that the lobbyist has become aware of should be included in an active return;
- the lobbying activities have terminated or no longer require registration; or
- five months have elapsed since the end of the last month in which a return was filed.
The monthly return must include (see York’s Government Relations Office Web site for all details):
- the name(s) of the public office holder;
- the position and name of the branch, unit or department;
- the date and particulars of the communication including subject matter(s).
The commissioner may verify with the DPOH the content of the monthly return. Once filed, the return will be added to the public searchable database. There is a penalty for failure to file a required return or for submission of a false or misleading statement to the commissioner of lobbying.
A disclosure is not required if:
- the communication takes place in an open forum in which the subject matters, the names of participants and the name of the government organizations represented are a matter of public record;
- the communication is restricted to a simple request for information;
- the DPOH initiates a discussion requesting an individual’s comment or expertise relating to the development, policy, programs or legislation.
However, a disclosure is required if communication is necessary to determine what additional information is required in having an application or project approved. If funding is discussed in a DPOH-initiated meeting you must submit a report.
The penalties are up to $50,000 or six months in jail on summary conviction or both; and up to $200,000 or two years in jail on indictment or both. The act sets a five-year limitation period for summary conviction from the date the commissioner became aware of the offence and 10 years after the day the alleged offence occurred. Further, the commissioner may prohibit a person convicted of an offence under the act from lobbying for up to two years. Additionally if an employee of the University has been successful at arranging funding but is found to be an unregistered lobbyist, that funding will be lost to the University.
If engaging in communications, including any oral or planned communication with a federal designated public office holder, send your complete communications reporting template to York University’s Government Relations Office. Direct your reports to Barbara Burrowes, government relations officer, by e-mail to email@example.com. Your report will be included in the University’s monthly return due by the first of each month.
For more information see York’s Government Relations Office Web site.