Lobbyists warned off campaigns

Karen E. Shepherd, the federal lobbying commissioner, sent registered lobbyists an email today warning them to take care to avoid violating the Lobbying Act by participating in the federal election campaign.

Lobbyists, many of whom came to Ottawa as political staffers, complain that the vagueness of the warning is preventing them from exercising their democratic right to participate in the process.

Text of the letter:

Lobbyists

Reminder concerning the participation of lobbyists in political activities
Dear Sir/Madam:
Following the recent announcement of the federal election, I wish to
take this opportunity to remind lobbyists to be mindful that political
activities may place a public office holder in a real or apparent
conflict of interest.
Subsection 10.3 of the Lobbying Act (the Act) states that lobbyists
are required to comply with the requirements of the Lobbyists’ Code of
Conduct (the Code). More specifically, Rule 8 of the Code provides
that:
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.
During this current election campaign, lobbyists should keep in mind
the following:
•Working on a political campaign to support the election of a public
office holder is, in my opinion, advancing the private interest of
that public office holder.
•A real or apparent conflict of interest can be created when a
lobbyist engages in political activities that advance the private
interest of a public office holder, while at the same time, or
subsequently, seeking to lobby that public office holder.
•In the case of a Minister or Minister of State, a real or apparent
conflict of interest can be created when a lobbyist engages in
political activities that advance the private interest of the Minister
or Minister of State, while at the same time, or subsequently, seeking
to lobby public office holders working in the department for which the
Minister or Minister of State is responsible.
•Temporary deregistration during the election campaign may not be
sufficient to avoid creating a real or apparent conflict of interest.
In November 2009 I issued Guidance on Conflict of Interest — Rule 8
and in August 2010 I issued Clarifications about political activities
in the context of Rule 8, which explain my interpretation of the Code
with respect to the intersection of political and lobbying activities.
In my Clarifications, I give examples of activities that I would see
as advancing the private interest of a public office holder to a high
degree as: (1) being a member of the board of directors of a public
office holder’s constituency association; (2) organizing a fundraising
activity for the benefit of the public office holder or their
constituency association; or (3) chairing a campaign for the election
of the public office holder.
For more information, please refer to these and other documents on the
Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying website at http://www.ocl-cal.gc.ca.
You can also directly contact my office at 613-957-2760 or
QuestionsLobbying@ocl-cal.gc.ca.
Sincerely yours,
Karen E. Shepherd
Commissioner of Lobbying

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About Stephen Maher

Canadian journalist and novelist. 2016 Harvard Nieman fellow.
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