The Role of a Lobbyist

 

Are you a lobbyist?

 

Consultant Lobbyist - Is an individual who, for payment, undertakes to lobby on behalf of a client.

In-house Lobbyist - Is an employee, an officer, or director of an organization, who is paid for performing his/her functions. 

The purpose of The Lobbyists Act is not to impede anyone’s right to communicate with their MLA, a Minister or any public office holder. The purpose is to ensure that those who are specifically getting paid to attempt to influence a decision are open about their activities so everyone has the same opportunity to understand who and what information was taken into consideration on a particular policy or decision.

Some examples of lobbying would include:

  • A coalition of businesses hires you to present their suggestion for an amendment of the Employment Standards Act.
  • You are a government relations person and over a cup of coffee with a Deputy Minister you talk about the need for regulation changes.
  • You are a paid advocate and organize an appeal on Facebook or Twitter calling for changes to the Wildlife Act asking the public to get involved and talk to their respective MLA about the topic.
  • A seed fertilizer company hires you to arrange a meeting to inform elected officials about the benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment deriving from plant sciences innovation.
  • You are at a social event and engage in conversation with a public office holder on behalf of one of your clients.

Not all meetings and communications are considered lobbying, nor is everyone who speaks to a public office holder about a specific topic considered a lobbyist. Volunteers, members of non-profit boards and government officials speaking to each other in their official capacity are not considered lobbyists.

Other examples of what is NOT considered lobbying:

  • A presentation is made within the framework of a judicial or adjudicative proceeding such as an employment tribunal.
  • Representation is made within the framework of a parliamentary commission or public forum where the proceedings are a matter of public record, such as during a town hall meeting or public consultation session.
  • You have been asked by a public office holder to speak on a specific topic.

Lobbyists are required to submit information on the lobbyist registry about communications with public office holders in order to be compliant with the legislation. The Registry is not intended to impede lobbying activities, but rather to provide transparency to the citizens of the province.

As a Lobbyist you are legally required to:

  • Read and understand your obligations under The Lobbyists Act.
  • Register in accordance with the timelines set out in The Lobbyists Act.
  • Update your information in accordance with the timelines set out in The Lobbyists Act.
  • Provide complete, unambiguous and accurate information.
  • Respond to requests for information or corrections from the Registrar or his or her delegate in a timely manner.

An undertaking to lobby is an agreement between a consultant lobbyist and a client (whether written or verbal) where the services the lobbyist will perform on behalf of the client include lobbying. Once an undertaking has been agreed to, the lobbyist has ten days to register him/herself on the lobbyist registry and file details regarding the lobbying activities associated with that client.

In-house lobbyists can work on a file for 100 hours annually before they are required to register their activities. This 100 hours includes all hours that other staff contribute to the file (such as interns, researchers, administrative support), travel and prep time. According to The Lobbyists Act, an in-house lobbyist must register within 60 days after the 100 hour threshold has been met. However, to avoid missing deadlines and for ease of filing, the Registrar recommends that in-house lobbyists register at the commencement of their activities.

Consultant and in-house lobbyists provide similar information on the Lobbyist Registry. That information includes contact information for the lobbyist and client (or the organization they work for), specific details about the lobbying activities and whom they are lobbying, as well as timelines. Submission of these details on the Lobbyist Registry is known as "filing a return"

The Lobbyists Act for Saskatchewan establishes the term “designated filer” to define who is responsible for registering lobbying activities. According to the Act a designated filer is:

  • A consultant lobbyist; OR
  • In the case of an organization that has an in-house lobbyist;
    • The most senior officer of the organization who receives payment for performing his or her functions; or
    • The most senior in-house lobbyist of the organization.

The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists recognizes that staff other than designated filers may perform the registering and updating functions required of lobbyists. These people are referred to as “administrative filers” and an organization can delegate up to three people as administrative filers.

While the administrative filer may register or update a file on the lobbyist registry, the responsibility for ensuring the information is accurate, true and has met the required deadlines rests solely with the lobbyist (“designated filer”). Once the administrative filer has completed filling in the return details the designated filer has to certify the information as to its veracity and then submit the return. The administrative filer cannot submit a return on behalf of a designated filer. 

These FAQ's are for advisory purposes only and cannot, and should not, be relied upon as legal advice. These FAQ's do not restrict the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists in interpreting or applying The Lobbyists Act. In all cases, the Act must be considered in its entirety and is always the definitive and binding document.

Q: Are there individuals whose activities are exempt from lobbying?

The Legislation reflects a focus on the private sector and paid lobbyist activities.

Some individuals that are exempt include volunteers who are not receiving payment and employees of federal and provincial/territorial governments when acting in their official capacities.

** For a full list of those individuals or organizations who are exempt please refer to The Lobbyists Act.

Q:  Do lobbyists have to file a registration if they are participating in a government initiated consultation?

No, as per clause 4(2)(c), if a public office holder has asked an individual for advice or comment on a specific issue then that is not considered lobbying.

Q: What if I am already performing an undertaking when the ACT comes into force?

You will need to register your activities on the lobbyist registry within 30 days after the day on which The Lobbyists Act comes into force.

Q: How do I know if I have to file/register a return?

If you accept payment to communicate with a Saskatchewan public office holder in an attempt to influence a government decision or policy then you are considered a lobbyist and must register your activities in the lobbyist registry.

If you are an in-house lobbyist then you must register your lobbying activities once you reach the 100 hours annual threshold.

Q: How are the 100 annual hours determined for in-house lobbyists?

The Regulations cite that an in-house lobbyist shall include all time spent on lobbying activities including time that is related to, and necessary for carrying out lobbying. This includes preparation time such as research, writing, photocopying, time spent arranging meetings and actual meetings, in addition to travel time to and from the organizations’ office where lobbying is located and the office of the public official.

Q: Do all employees of the organization who contribute to lobbying activities have to be named in the registration?

No, only the name of the organization and names of each in-house lobbyist for that organization are to be included.

Q: Who registers on behalf of the organization?

The term Designated Filer is defined as:

  • A consultant lobbyist
  • In the case of an in-house lobbyist, the most senior officer of the organization who receives payment for performing his or her functions; or
  • If there is no senior officer, the most senior in-house lobbyist of the organization.

Either of these 3 persons may submit a registration on behalf of an organization.

Q:  Are there activities that are NOT considered lobbying?

Governance requires constant communication within government, between governments in all their various forms, and with businesses, other organizations and citizens. There are many, many of these conversations every day.

The purpose of Saskatchewan lobbyist registry is to capture and report on only those conversations where someone is being paid to communicate with the provincial government in an attempt to influence that government in such a way as to benefit the party paying that person.

If you have a question of whether communications or intended communications are registerable please contact the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.

Q: What is the Saskatchewan lobbyist registry?

The Saskatchewan lobbyist registry is an online registration system which allows individuals and organizations to register their lobbying activities by filing a return and updating the information in accordance with the requirements of The Lobbyists Act.  As part of the Province’s commitment to accountable and transparent government, the registry allows the public to search and view all of the information in the returns.

Q:  When do I have to update my return?

If you are a consultant lobbyist you must update the information on your return within 30 days after the end of each six-month period. There is also a provision that if any material changes occur within that 6 month period (such as you decide to lobby an additional public official or change your address) then you must update your return within 30 days of that change.

The same rule applies to in-house lobbyists.

Q: What happens when I complete all lobbying for my client?

Within 30 days of all lobbying activities associated with a specific client being completed a consultant lobbyist must update their return on the lobbyist registry and notify the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists in writing.

Q:  Are there sanctions if a lobbyist has not registered their activities?

The Lobbyists Act gives the Registrar of Lobbyists the power to conduct investigations and assess an administrative penalty to lobbyists who are not complying with the Act.

Penalties up to $25,000 and prohibitions on lobbying can be assessed by the Registrar.