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Town of Collingwood Joins Other Ontario Municipalities: Sanctions and Penalties for Failure to Register Lobbying Take Effect July 1

Fasken
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Political Law Bulletin

Effective July 1, the Town of Collingwood will start to enforce its lobbying By-law with sanctions and penalties. Its lobbyist registry, already operational, is the seventh municipal lobbyist registration system in Ontario, after Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Brampton, Peel Region, and Vaughan.

By-law No. 2020-001,[1] which established the registry, has been in partial effect since January 1, with the registration system operational since that date. The entire lobbyist registration regime takes full effect on July 1 when Part IV of the By-law (Sanction and Penalties) comes into force.

Who Is a Lobbyist and Who Is Lobbied?

Collingwood's By-law broadly defines lobbying, in a manner similar manner to other Ontario municipalities with lobbyist registries. Under the By-law, "lobby", "lobbies" or "lobbying" means:

"any communication with a public officer holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a by-law, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before Council, a Committee of Council, or a staff member acting under delegated authority."

Certain activities are explicitly exempted from the definition of lobbying. Examples include, but are not limited to, communications related to an open procurement process or communications related to a development application. Individual's wishing to rely on these exemptions must take great care to ensure their communications with public office holders are covered by an exemption, otherwise they may expose themselves to penalties or sanctions under the By-law.

The By-law creates three distinct categories of lobbyists. Individuals who intend to communicate with Collingwood officials must know their lobbyist category in order to register. The three categories are:

  • Consultant lobbyist - an individual who lobbies for payment on behalf of a client, which can be another individual, company, partnership or other entity.
  • In-house lobbyist - an individual who is an employee, partner or sole proprietor and who lobbies on behalf of his or her own employer, business or other entity.
  • Voluntary unpaid lobbyist - an individual who lobbies without payment on behalf of an individual, business, or other organization for the benefit of the interests of the individual, business or other entity. 

The list of "public office holders" – that is, Collingwood officials, communications with whom may constitute lobbying - is also broad and includes all of the following:

  • Members of Town Council and their staffs.
  • Officers and employees of the Town in certain management positions or with direct contact with Council.
  • Members of local board or committees.
  • Employees who work on municipal elections in a supervising role.
  • An accountability officers of the Town.
  • Individuals providing professional services to the Town.

The Obligation to Register and the Penalties That Come with a Failure to Do So

Individuals must register their lobbying activity within 10 business days of the initial communication. Failure to register within this time limit is a violation of the By-law. A lobbyist's registration must include all of the information required under the By-law, including contact information,  business information, the class of lobbyist into which the individual falls, all target public office holders of the lobbying activity, as well as a description of the subject matter on which the individual intends to lobby.

Lobbyists are prohibited from receiving payment that is in whole or part contingent on the successful outcome of lobbying.

The penalty provisions in Collingwood's By-law come into effect on July 1, 2020. As of that date, any individual who engages in non-compliant lobbying (such as a failure to register prior to the commencement of lobbying activity) risks  sanction. The Lobbyist Registrar may impose a penalty on any lobbyist who fails to comply with the requirements of the By-law, including a prohibition on lobbying that may range from 30 days to indefinite.

Conclusion

More than 30 lobbyists have already registered under Collingwood's new system. With Part IV of the By-law (sanctions and penalties) coming into force,  individuals that are currently lobbying, or are considering lobbying, in Collingwood should review their practices  and take immediate steps to comply.



[1] Town of Collingwood By-law No. 2020-001, Being a by-law to establish and maintain a lobbyist registry for the corporation of the Town of Collingwood

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