In a move to strengthen compliance with federal lobbying legislation, the Commissioner of Lobbying, Karen E. Shepherd (Commissioner), has imposed the first-ever lobbying ban in Canada. Andrew Skaling, a former federal staffer, has been prohibited from lobbying for a four-month period.
The federal Lobbying Act (Act) provides a framework for lobbyist registration and sets out specific prohibitions on certain lobbying activities. The Act promotes the notion that free and open access to the government is in the public’s interest, and that lobbying public office holders is legitimate so long as the public can access information about who is engaging in these activities. The Act sets out the filing and registration processes necessary for an individual to legitimately communicate with a public office holder as a consultant lobbyist. Along with the authority to impose fines, the Act also authorizes the Commissioner to ban those convicted of an offence under the Act from lobbying federal public office holders for a maximum of two years.
Mr. Skaling was found to have engaged in lobbying activities on behalf of a non-profit organization, the Canadian Network of Respiratory Care (CNRC), without registering as a consultant lobbyist as required by the Act. After a complaint was filed with the Commissioner in 2011, an RCMP investigation revealed that Mr. Skaling was paid by CNRC to secure federal funding, and that he concealed his failure to register under the Act. Mr. Skaling was charged on January 29, 2013, plead guilty on July 13, 2013 and was fined $7,500.
The Commissioner stated that the four-month ban of Mr. Skaling’s lobbying activities, which spans from September 16, 2013 to January 16, 2014, was appropriate because Mr. Skaling had no prior history of offending the Act. The Commissioner also noted that the combined fine and ban as a penalty is proportionate to the seriousness of offence.
This first-ever prohibition imposed by the Commissioner emphasizes the importance of transparency in the lobbying process. The enforcement of penal sanctions against Mr. Skaling indicates a willingness on the part of the Commissioner to ensure both transparency in the political system and compliance with the legal system. Ultimately the ban underscores the need for those in consultant positions—as well as organizations and corporations retaining consultant lobbyists—to be aware of and in compliance with the Act’s provisions and registration requirements.
* Assistance from Marissa Daniels, Articling Student.
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