Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ column was designed to answer the most frequently asked questions on:

1. Lobbying in Québec
2. The public nature of lobbying: registration
3. Oversight of lobbying practice in Québec

If you do not find an answer to your question, do not hesitate to contact us at the following address: commissaire@commissairelobby.qc.ca

You can also reach us at the following toll-free number: 1 866 281-4615.


Lobbying in Québec

What is lobbying?
Lobbying is a legitimate means of getting in contact with parliamentary, government and municipal institutions. For additional information, refer to the section What is lobbying?

How does the Québec Act define lobbying?
In Québec, lobbying can be defined as:

What is meant by "oral or written communication"?
This expression has a very wide scope. It includes, among other things:

What lobbying activities are excluded from the Act?
Some lobbying activities are specifically excluded from the Act, especially:
Moreover, the Act does not apply to the lobbying activities of enterprise or organization lobbyists with respect to licensing, the awarding of a certificate or grant, or any other cash benefit, where the public office holder making the decision only checks whether the legal conditions are met.

For example, consider the case of an organization lobbyist applying for a permit for which the official is only authorized to ensure that the permit requirements provided for under the Act, are met.

Also excluded from the application of the Act, are submissions made outside of any decision-making process and aimed at presenting goods or services to a public office holder.

Who is considered a lobbyist? What is the difference between a consultant lobbyist, an enterprise lobbyist and an organization lobbyist?
An entire section of the Web site is devoted to that issue: Types of lobbyists.

What is meant by a public office holder?
Very broadly, the definition of public office holder includes:

What does "carrying on lobbying activities in a transparent manner" mean?
The transparency of lobbying activities is ensured by the maintenance of a lobbyists registry that can be accessed free of charge on the Web. Lobbyists are required to enter all their lobbying activities in this registry within the time provided for by the Act.

What is the meaning of the expression "a significant part of whose job or function (...) consists in lobbying (...)"?
This expression only applies to the lobbying activities of enterprises or organizations whose significance must be assessed in a global perspective.

It is for the senior officer of the enterprise or organization to determine if the registration in the Lobbyists registry is necessary and to identify those who should be registered.

In order to determine if lobbying activities form a significant part of the activities of an enterprise or organization, the senior officer must file a declaration in the registry as soon as the conditions of any one of the following tests are met:

To perform these tests, please refer to the 2005-07 Notice of the Lobbyists Commissioner (33.31KB) (French).

Once the senior officer has noted that it is necessary for him to register his enterprise or organization, he must provide, in addition to his own, if revelant, the name of all the persons in the enterprise or organization who contact public office holders in an attempt to influence the decision-making process.

Who is the Lobbyists Commissioner of Québec? Is he answerable to a governmental or paragovernmental agency?
The Lobbyists Commissioner of Québec is a person designated by the Québec National Assembly to monitor and control lobbying activities in Québec. Appointed for five years, he reports his activities every year to the Québec National Assembly. The Lobbyists Commissioner is impartial. He is not answerable to a governmental or paragovernmental body.

What are the powers of the Lobbyists Commissioner?
The Commissioner can carry out inspections to verify that the rules regulating lobbying activities are obeyed. Moreover, when he has reasonable cause to believe that some people are not obeying these rules, he can make inquiries.

At the time of an inspection, any person is authorized by the Commissioner to enter the office of a lobbyist or public office holder for the purpose of providing and to require:
The inspector can make copies of all documents. Moreover, the persons who have them in their possession must make them easily accessible for consultation, otherwise they could be prosecuted.



The public nature of lobbying: registration

What is the period allowed for a lobbyist to declare his lobbying activities?
Consultant lobbyists register personally no later than the thirtieth day following the start of their lobbying activities. In the case of organization or enterprise lobbyists, it is the duty of the senior officer of the organization of the group or enterprise to register the lobbyist within a 60-day period.

As for the notice of change, it must be given within a 30-day period, regardless of the type of lobbyist.

Can a lobbyist entrust another person with the responsibility of effecting his registration in the lobbyists registry?
A lobbyist can ask another person to prepare, sign and file declarations and notices in the lobbyists registry. Refer to the lobbyists registry's Web site to know more about this issue.

How does one register in the lobbyists registry?
The initial declaration can be prepared and transmitted electronically or in paper form. Before doing so, however, certain steps must be taken depending on how one wishes to proceed.

Declaration on paper
First, one must obtain a client code by completing the prescribed electronic form or by contacting the Client Service of the Direction des registres et de la certification. To this end, please refer to the Web site of the lobbyists registry maintained by the Ministère de la Justice.

Once the client code has been obtained, all that is left is to complete the declaration manually. All applications for registration in the Lobbyists registry involve a $150 fee.

Electronic declaration
  1. First, one must obtain a client code by completing the prescribed electronic form or by contacting the Client Service of the Direction des registres et de la certification. To this end, please refer to the Web site of the lobbyists registry maintained by the Ministère de la Justice.
     
  2. Then, a digital signature key must be obtained by submitting a request to an identity verification officer. To this end, please refer to the list of identity verification officers.
Electronic registration is free. However, there is a charge for the signature key.

Is it necessary to update an entry in the Lobbyists registry?
In order to update the content of the declaration relating to a lobbyist (consultant lobbyist, enterprise lobbyist and organization lobbyist), a notice of change must be submitted no later than the thirtieth day following the change.

As for a registration renewal, the consultant lobbyist must do so every year no later than the thirtieth day following the anniversary date of his initial registration. In the case of enterprise or organization lobbyists, renewals must take place no later than the sixtieth day following the end of the financial year of the enterprise or organization.

The renewal is free if made through the Internet; if the renewal is made by mail or in person, a $150 fee applies.

In the case of enterprise and organization lobbyists, who is responsible for filing the declaration in the lobbyists registry?
The senior officer of the enterprise or organization is the one who must take over this responsibility. However, the senior officer may ask someone else to prepare, sign and file on his behalf the declarations and notices in the registry.

Who is responsible for keeping the lobbyists registry?
The Act confers this duty upon the Lobbyists Registrar, who reports to the Ministère de la Justice.

The Registrar receives registrations and makes sure they contain all the required information. She can refuse non-compliant or incomplete registrations.

Therefore, it is not the Lobbyists Commissioner who is responsible for keeping the Lobbyists registry.

What is the information found in the lobbyists registry?
An entire section of the Web site is devoted to this matter: I consult the lobbyists registry.

Does a lobbyist have to disclose in the lobbyists registry all the information required by the Act if he has good reason to believe that it could damage the economic or financial interests of his client?
A lobbyist must always disclose all the information required by the Act. However, if his concerns are justified, the lobbyist can obtain from the Lobbyists Commissioner a confidentiality order whose effect will be to make certain information unavailable to the public.

How can a confidentiality order be obtained?
To obtain a confidentiality order, the lobbyist must complete the form provided for this purpose and forward it to the Lobbyists Commissioner. The Commissioner is the only one who can order that some, or all of the information included in a registration be withheld from the public.

The confidentiality order form (French) (60.91KB) is available on-line. It can also be obtained by calling the Office of the Lobbyists Commissioner directly.

What criteria must be met for a confidentiality order to be issued by the Lobbyists Commissioner?
For a confidentiality order to be issued, the application must above all concern an investment project.

Moreover, it must be established by means of objective facts that the disclosure of information in the lobbyists registry could seriously harm the economic or financial interests of the client, enterprise or organization.

If these conditions are met, the confidentiality order is valid for a period of six month; otherwise it is denied.

Is the information disclosed in the lobbyists registry by the lobbyists themselves always fully accessible to the public?
Yes, unless the lobbyist has obtained from the Lobbyists Commissioner a confidentiality order regarding certain information. Refer to the section I need a confidentiality order for further details.



Oversight of lobbying practice in Québec

What obligations does the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act impose on Lobbyists?
Lobbyists must carry on their lobbying activities in a transparent manner and follow the rules of conduct provided for in the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and in the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists. For additional information, please refer to the section My legal obligations.

What could happen if a lobbyist failed to comply with the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act or the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists?
Penal and disciplinary sanctions, as well as civil proceedings can be applied. Please refer to the section What if I do not comply with the Act for additional information.

Can a lobbyist ask a public office holder to participate in social or sporting activities and must he declare these activities in detail in the lobbyists registry?
The Act does not prohibit a lobbyist from asking a public office holder (Minister, member of the National Assembly, mayor, municipal or borough councillor, public servant, etc.) to lunch or for a game of golf. However, lobbyists must comply with the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and with the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists, which especially prohibits them from inciting public office holders to transgress the standards of conduct imposed upon them.

The information a lobbyist must enter in his declaration concerns the means of communication he used or intends to use: meeting, telephone call or written communication. For example, if Julie, a consultant lobbyist, occasionally asks a public office holder to lunch, she is not required to specify the name of her guest or the name of the restaurant where they meet. However, she will have to declare, among other things, the subject-matter of her lobbying activities, the name of her client, the title of the persons she communicates with as well as the duration of her mandate.

A person occasionally makes influence communications with public authorities. Does this person have to comply with the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists?
If a person, such as a lawyer, an engineer or an urban planner, attempts to influence a public office holder on behalf of a client, this person is in fact acting as a consultant lobbyist. As such, he must state all of his activities, regardless of the time devoted to them, and he must make sure to comply with the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists.

Moreover, if a person works for an enterprise or organization, this person could be acting as an enterprise or organization lobbyist. In this case, he must submit the case to the senior officer of the enterprise or organization of the group, who will determine whether or not to register in the lobbyists registry. For more information, please refer to the question What is meant by the expression “a significant part of whose job or function consists in lobbying?” and the 2005-07 Notice of the Lobbyists Commissioner.

Is a mayor allowed to lobby the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Regions?
In the performance of his duties, a public office holder can lobby other public office holders. In so doing, he is not subjected to the rules that regulate lobbying activities.

Can a former public office holder carry on lobbying activities?
Certain restrictions apply to persons who were formerly public officer holders. Please refer to the section What are my obligations if I leave my office? for additional information.

Is a public office holder who accepts that an unregistered lobbyist attempts to influence his decision-making liable to sanctions?
A public office holder cannot be found guilty of a breach of the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act or of the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists. However, it is in the public office holders' interest to endorse the purposes of this Act. For more information, please refer to the section
What are my responsibilities?

A lobbyist offers hockey tickets to a public office holder. What do the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists stipulate in this case?
The Act does not provide any particular requirement for public office holders in this respect. On the other hand, the Code does not allow lobbyists to incite public office holders to transgress the standards of conduct that apply to them.

Are all organizations subject to the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists?
No, the only ones affected are organizations constituted to serve management, union or professional interests or the majority of whose members are profit-seeking enterprises or representatives thereof. For example, the Syndicat des professionnels de la fonction publique, the Conseil du patronat, the Québec Lumber Manufacturers Association, chambers of commerce and the Conseil de l'industrie forestière du Québec are all bodies that must comply with the Act.

Are small and medium sized businesses striving to obtain contracts from a municipality with fewer than 10,000 residents subject to the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act and the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists?
The lobbying activities that small and medium sized businesses engage in with the public office holders of all Québec municipalities are affected by the Act and the code, just as much as those of multinationals.

A sales representative from the firm Fireproof Accessories regularly communicates with various public office holders from ministries and municipalities hoping to promote the existence and characteristics of his products. In this example, is this representative carrying on lobbying activities and is he, by the same token, affected by the Act?
A simple presentation of the characteristics of a product or service to a public office holder does not fall within the scope of the Act and is therefore not considered a lobbying activity.

What can a citizen do if he observes that an enterprise that is not registered with the lobbyists registry has influence communications with public office holders?
Any citizen who notices a breach of the Lobbying Transparency and Ethics or of the Code of Conduct for Lobbyists can report it to the Lobbyists Commissioner by mail, by e-mail or by phone.