Lobbying Commissioner Issues Guidance for Conduct During Federal Election

Canada’s Commissioner of Lobbying has issued a reminder to lobbyists about how Rule 8 of the Lobbyists’ Code applies to their political activities during a federal election.

Pursuant to rule 8 of the Code, “Lobbyists shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest by proposing or undertaking any action that would constitute an improper influence on a public office holder.”

The Commissioner advises that when a lobbyist carries out political activities during a federal election, they must consider the risk of creating a sense of obligation on the part of candidates, who may soon become public office holders.

The guidance includes some examples of “political activity” during the federal election that, in the interpretation of the Commissioner, would (and would not) create a sense of obligation on the part of a candidate.

Here are the examples of activity that carry no risk of creating a sense of obligation:

  • voting;
  • placing a candidate’s campaign sign on one’s lawn;
  • scrutineering for a candidate;
  • purchasing a ticket to and attending a fundraising event;
  • speaking on a political panel when the lobbyist is expressing his or her own views as an individual; or
  • donating money to an election campaign within the limits established in the Canada Elections Act.

Here are the examples that would create a sense of obligation:

  • serving on the Executive or Board of Directors of a candidate’s electoral district association;
  • serving as a campaign chair or in another strategic role on a campaign team;
  • serving in a named position on behalf of a candidate or electoral district association as set out in the Canada Elections Act;
  • leading the preparation of a candidate for debates or providing strategic advice in the context of debate preparation;
  • organizing a fundraising event;
  • serving in a named position on behalf of a registered party as set out in the Canada Elections Act;
  • serving in a paid campaign staff position or in another strategic role on a regional or national campaign team;
  • acting as a designated party spokesperson;
  • writing speeches for the party leader;
  • working in a strategic capacity in a party’s war room; and
  • leading debate preparation for the party leader or providing strategic advice in the context of debate preparation.

Current or prospective Lobbyists who are considering engaging in political activities in the lead-up to or during the federal election should seek legal advice to understand how the Lobbying Act (Canada) and the Lobbyists’ Code apply to their planned activities.

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