Written by William S. Osler, Milos Barutciski and Jessica D. Ferguson
New lobbying legislation came into force in Alberta effective September 28, 2009. The Lobbyists Act (Alberta) imposes new reporting requirements on specified communications with public office holders in the province, and will require individuals who lobby provincial public office holders to file reports of their lobbying activities with a new Lobbyists Registry.
In Alberta, lobbying involves communicating with public office holders in an attempt to influence certain types of decisions. Communications via email, telephone or in a face-to-face conversation are all considered to be lobbying for the purposes of the Lobbyists Act.
Public Office Holders
Public office holders include members of the Legislative Assembly and all employees, directors and officers of government departments or one of the numerous provincial entities prescribed in the Lobbyists Act. These entities include various provincial tribunals, commissions, boards, councils, committees, panels, colleges, foundations and institutes.
Categories of Lobbyists
The Lobbyists Act identifies two categories of lobbyists, Consultant Lobbyists and Organization Lobbyists.
A Consultant Lobbyist is a person who is retained by a client, for a fee, to lobby on behalf of that client. Consultant Lobbyists are responsible for their own compliance and registration, but a business that retains a Consultant Lobbyist should ensure that the lobbyist is aware of and complies with the registration requirements.
An Organization Lobbyist is a person:
- Who is a paid employee, officer or director of an organization, a partner in a partnership or a sole proprietor;
- Who lobbies on behalf of the organization; and
- Whose lobbying activities, together with those of other lobbyists in the organization, amount to at least 100 hours annually.
If a person's lobbying activities, together with the lobbying activities of other individuals in the same organization, do not exceed 100 hours annually, then that person is not an Organization Lobbyist and there are no filing requirements under the Lobbyists Act. When determining if the 100-hour threshold has been met, time spent actually communicating with public officials is included, but time spent preparing for the communication is not.
Directors, officers or employees of non-profit organizations generally are not considered lobbyists for purposes of the Lobbyists Act.
The Designated Filer of an organization is responsible for filing all required registrations and is the most senior paid officer in the organization, or if there is no such person, the Organization Lobbyist him or herself. The Designated Filer will be required to file only one registration in respect of an Organization Lobbyist, even if that Organization Lobbyist is engaging in communications with more than one public office holder on more than one occasion.
The Registration Requirement
The Lobbyists Act requires returns to be filed in prescribed form with the Lobbyists Registry. The Organization Lobbyist registration must include, among other things, the name and business address of the Designated Filer and the organization, a summary of the organization's business, the subject-matter of the lobbying activities and the name of any department or provincial public office holder that is being lobbied.
If an individual is engaged in lobbying but is not receiving remuneration or is doing so solely on his or her own behalf, such person will not qualify as a Consultant Lobbyist or Organization Lobbyist and the registration requirement will not apply.
Timeliness of Registrations
An Organization Lobbyist engaged in lobbying as of September 28, 2009, must register by November 28, 2009. Anyone who becomes an Organization Lobbyist after September 28, 2009, must register within two months of becoming an Organization Lobbyist. A Consultant Lobbyist who is engaged in lobbying as of September 28, 2009, must register by filing a return by October 28, 2009. A Consultant Lobbyist who undertakes to lobby after September 28, 2009, must register within 10 days of entering into such undertaking.
Organization Lobbyists are required to submit a renewal return within 30 days after each six-month anniversary date of the initial registration.
The Registration Process
Returns can be filed electronically with the Office of the Ethics Commissioner (which is overseeing the operation of the Lobbyists Act) at www.lobbyistsact.ab.ca. There is no fee for returns filed electronically. Returns may also be filed in paper format (including by fax) for a $150 filing fee. All Designated Filers will be required to complete a User Agreement and Certification and an Online Application Form. Once these are received and reviewed by the Commissioner, an account will be created and an e-mail will be sent to the Designated Filer containing a Lobbyists ID and password. This account can then be used to file all new returns and renewal returns.
A Lobbyists Registry has been created and it will contain a record of all returns and other documents filed under the Lobbyists Act. The Lobbyists Registry is accessible to the public at www.lobbyistsact.ab.ca.
Contraventions of the Lobbyists Act may result in a maximum penalty of $100,000 as well as a prohibition against lobbying of up to two years.