It Takes Two to Tango—Exempt Staff and the Lobbying Act

It Takes Two to Tango—Exempt Staff and the Lobbying Act

Canada’s federal Lobbying Act is focussed on the lobbyist rather than the lobbied. However, the lobbied can play an important role in contributing to a culture of compliance. Given lobbying rules focus on the lobbyists, the lobbied do not have a strong incentive to learn about lobbying regulations. Furthermore, training from the Commissioner of Lobbying’s office is not mandatory. Thus, it is expected that a knowledge gap on the Lobbying Act exists. A survey sent to ministerial Chiefs of Staff revealed such a knowledge gap – although factors like experience as a lobbyist have a positive correlation to knowledge of lobbying regulations. This gap is concerning and speaks to challenges with training in the unique context of the Hill.

Contrary to its negative public perception, lobbying is a legitimate and regulated channel through which organizations and individuals influence policy in a Parliamentary democracy. It requires two parties: the lobbyist who is asking for something and the public office holder who is being asked. Parliament created lobbying regulations which focus almost exclusively on the former. Although the public office holder being lobbied is an integral party to the act of lobbying, there is very little research on the participation of the lobbied in the Canadian federal context. A study of one such category of public office holders, chiefs of staff in Ministers’ offices, demonstrates some of the challenges with regulating lobbying in a Parliamentary democracy and areas where further research is essential.