Changes to B.C. Lobbying Rules Coming May 4
Do you lobby in BC? If so, this applies to you.
If you, your company, or organization communicates with government officials in the Province of British Columbia (B.C.), even just from time to time, it is important for you to understand the upcoming legislative changes that will significantly impact B.C.’s lobbyist registration rules.
The B.C. government recently introduced changes to the B.C. Lobbyist Transparency Act (The Act) that will come into force on May 4, 2020. These changes mark the most substantial reforms to lobbying in B.C. since the lobbyist registration system was first introduced in 2001.
There are a number of substantial changes to The Act, all of which are outlined here. The most significant changes include:
- The elimination of the 100-hour threshold that needs to be met before in-house lobbyists are required to register; and
- The requirement to file monthly lobbying activity reports.
Elimination of the 100-hour threshold
Presently, many organizations are not required to register to lobby in B.C. as their collective in-house (an organization’s paid employees, officers and directors) lobbying efforts do not meet the 100-hours-per-year threshold.
Effective May 4, 2020, this threshold will be eliminated and replaced with a requirement to register to lobby, unless an organization meets the following points:
- Has fewer than six (6) employees;
- The primary purpose is not to lobby or to promote or oppose issues; and
- Lobbying activities have totalled fewer than 50 hours in a twelve-month period.
The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyist (ORL) has issued specific guidance for organizations that can be accessed here.
Monthly lobbying activity reports
Currently in B.C., lobbyists are required to report who they intend to lobby instead of who they are lobbying. This requirement has long been a source of confusion for lobbyists and the public.
Under the new Act, all lobbyists will be required to file a monthly lobbying activity report (LAR). These reports will be a true record of all formal and informal communications between senior public office holders and in-house lobbyists and consultants, not just pre-arranged discussions and meetings. Similar to the Canadian federal lobbyist registration system, these monthly LARs must be filed by the 15th of the following month.
The B.C. monthly LARs will also require the confirmation and disclosure of gifts to public office holders and any political, sponsorship or recall contributions. More detailed guidance on monthly reporting is available in the FAQ document provided on the ORL website, in the 10, 15 and 30 Day Requirements Guidance Document, and the How to Register and Report Your Lobbying Activities Guidance Document.
Are you lobbying?
A lobbyist in B.C. is:
- Communicating with government staff (public office holders) to arrange a meeting for the purpose of lobbying; and
- Attempting to influence government policy, legislation, spending, decisions, contracts and more.
For more information, please reference the Are you a lobbyist in BC? Guidance Document.
The following links can help you quickly navigate the ORL website:
- Overview and link to guidance documents on the changes
- Lobbyist Transparency Act
- Glossary of terms
- Screenshot of the new lobbying activity reports: Consultants or In-house
The ORL has been very focused on providing education and resources to support upcoming changes. The team in the Registrar’s office is also very responsive and willing to answer questions. With current office closures, we recommend that you e-mail questions, or request to connect, to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also want to consult with your legal counsel to ensure that you are well prepared for the upcoming changes as the fines and reputational risk of non-compliance are substantial. As always, the team at Global Public Affairs is also here to help.
Kim Haakstad is President – Public Affairs Association of Canada, B.C.