Alberta is poised to become the sixth Canadian jurisdiction to implement
a lobbyist registry, to date the Federal Government, British Columbia,
Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador have registries.
The Government of Manitoba has recently adopted a law along these lines.
This article outlines provisions of the Lobbyists Act and the Conflicts
of Interest Act.
The recommendations for a lobbyist registry and changes to conflict of
interest legislation were contained in a May 2006 report of an all party
committee of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta which reviewed the Conflicts
of Interest Act.
Bill 1, the Lobbyists Act, sponsored by Ed Stelmach, Premier of Alberta
was passed during the autumn session of 2007. Proclamation of the Act has
been delayed in order to create the software and implementation policies
and the registry is currently expected to be up and running by 2009.
Like other Canadian lobbyist registries, the legislation aims to create
transparency by requiring lobbyists to make public disclosure of their
lobbying activities. The Lobbyists Act will require any person or entity
to register as a lobbyist if they meet the criteria of either a consultant
lobbyist or an organization lobbyist. Consultant lobbyists are persons
and their employees who for payment, undertake to lobby in respect of an
undertaking. An organization lobbyist is someone who receives a payment
for performance of their functions, who lobbies at least 100 hours annually
on behalf of their organization or who collectively with other persons
in the same organization spends a total of at least 100 hours annually
Albertas new Lobbyist Act prohibits any person from lobbying the government
of Alberta at the same time as they are providing advice to the government,
except where the Ethics Commissioner finds that it is in the public interest
to do so.
Introduction of the bill implementing the Lobbyists Act met with widespread
public concerns that the work of charities and community oriented non-profit
organizations might be impeded by requirements to register their lobbying
activities and that it might impact recruitment of volunteers. As a result,
the Lobbyists Act was amended after introduction in the house. It now
provides an exemption for unpaid volunteers and for persons involved with
non-profits which are not constituted to serve management, union or professional
interests nor having a majority of members that are profit seeking enterprises
or representatives of profit seeking enterprises. School board trustees
or employees are also exempt.
It should be noted that all Alberta government grants over $5,000 and other
payments over $10,000 are registered in a publically accessible blue book
and are available online. Payments under $10,000 are collectively shown
as Sundry Payments and do not show payees unless the annual cumulative
total of such payments to one entity exceeds $10,000.
Bill 2 in the 2007 spring session of Albertas legislature was the Conflicts
of Interest Amendment Act. Among the amendments was an increased post-employment
prohibition on lobbying on behalf of a third party for former Ministers.
Maximum penalties for breaches of the post-employment cooling-off rules
are raised from $20,000 to $50,000. The bill also amended legislation
to include similar post-employment restriction for former senior political
staff and for deputy ministers, both for a period of 6 months.
The new legislation broadens the definition of conflicts to prohibit an
MLA from using inside government information or influence for the purpose
of improperly furthering the private interest of any other person. Formerly
the legislation only spoke to furthering the private interests of the Member,
spouse, an affiliated corporation, partnership, or their minor children.
The new legislation also prohibits MLAs from accepting flights on private
aircraft unless they are performing their duties as MLAs and they disclose
such flights to the Ethics Commissioner within 7 days.