Written by Sharon G.K. Singh, Milos Barutciski, Charlotte Teal and David Bursey
On May 1, 2018, amendments to the Lobbyists Registration Act will come into force introducing new requirements and restrictions for in-house and consultant lobbyists (the "Amendments"). The Amendments mark the first set of changes to the Act promised by the Government, with further changes planned for release in fall, 2018.
The Amendments follow through on the commitment in the of the 2017 Confidence and Supply Agreement in which the B.C. Green Party and the B.C. NDP agreed to introduce legislation instituting a multi-year prohibition on lobbying for former senior public office holders.
The aim of the Amendments is to increase transparency, eliminate the risk of undue influence, and the use of improper information by lobbyists who were former public officer holders. "Former public officer holder" includes Ministers and their staff, Parliamentary Secretaries, Deputy Ministers and Associate/Assistant Deputy Ministers, CEOs, and the most senior or next-most-senior ranking executive positions in a Provincial Entity.
The Amendments introduce:
- A "cooling off period" that bans former public office holders and their senior staff from lobbying government for two years after leaving their government position.
- A new requirement that lobbyists disclose the names of any staff person working in a Minister or MLA's office, with whom the lobbyist has met with or spoken to as part of their lobbying work as of May 1, 2018. This requirement complements the existing requirement that lobbyists disclose the names of MLAs with whom they have spoken.
The registrar can exempt a former public office holder from the two-year cooling off period, subject to any necessary terms and conditions, if satisfied that it is in the public interest. Exemption applications will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
To apply for an exemption, the applicant must prepare a submission for the registrar, including supporting evidence as to how the exemption would serve in the public interest.
The Amendments will have significant personal implications for former public office holders by restricting their ability to engage in lobbying after leaving their former positions.
On May 1, any former public office holder that is within two years of leaving their position must stop lobbying, deregister, and apply for an exemption.
Those who fail to comply may be liable for administrative penalties up to $25,000, or guilty of an offence and liable on conviction for up to $25,000 for the first offence and up to $100,000 for a subsequent offence. The registrar is also empowered to impose a two-year prohibition from lobbying as part of the penalties.
Organizations and individual lobbyists should review their former public office holders to determine if the two-year cooling off period has been satisfied. If not, former public office holders should prepare to deregister and apply for an exemption. Organizations and individual lobbyists should also update their registry on May 1, 2018, (or within 30 days thereafter) to disclose the names of any staff person working in a Minister or MLA's office that any lobbyist has lobbied (since May 1, 2018) or intends to lobby within the registration period.