Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario making rules stricter for lobbyists

Ontario has announced new legislation for transparency and accountability that will also narrow the opportunities for influencing government policies.

March 25, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Ontario has announced new legislation for transparency and accountability that will also narrow the opportunities for influencing government policies.

The provincial government says that the proposed “Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act, 2014” introduced on March 24 is intended to “strengthen political accountability, enhance oversight, and increase transparency in the government and the broader public sector.”

Besides introducing the requirement that MPPs’ expenses be posted online, that public sector executives have salary caps, and setting rules for safekeeping documents, the proposed legislation will amend the Lobbyists Registration Act of 1998.

The current Act requires that anyone who is paid to communicate with a politician or other public figure with the goal of influencing their policies or activities needs to register as a lobbyist. Engineering industry associations and some consulting engineers can fall under the rules.

John Gamble of the Association of Consulting Engineering Companies (ACEC) in Ottawa, says, “It’s very important that firms who have direct contact with elected politicians and senior officials be aware of the legislation.”

The new legislation would establish new rules and guidance for lobbyists and give the registrar the right to investigate violations and prohibit entities from lobbying for up to two years. Fines for violating the rules will be raised to $25,000 for a first offence, and $100,000 for subsequent offences.

To avoid conflict of interest situations, entities will be prohibited from lobbying and providing paid advice on the same subject matter at the same time. As well, they will be banned from accepting fees contingent on achieving a particular outcome from their activities.

A single set of rules will apply to both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

Ontario’s current Act defines lobbyists as:

“Consultant lobbyists paid to lobby on behalf of a client, e.g. government relations consultants, lawyers, accountants or other professionals who provide lobbying services for their clients.”

“In-house lobbyists employed by non-commercial organizations such as advocacy groups, and industry, professional and charitable organizations.

“In-house lobbyists employed by persons (including corporations) and partnerships that carry on commercial activities for financial gain.”

The proposed legislation will also expand the role of the Ontario Ombudsman to allow him to investigate closed municipal meetings. He or she would only be able to investigate complaints about municipal meetings after local processes have been carried out.

To read the Ontario government press release, click here.


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