On June 12, 2015, the government of Quebec introduced Bill 56 (Lobbying Transparency Act) in the National Assembly. If adopted, Bill 56 will replace the current legislation governing lobbying in Quebec (Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act, CQLR c T-11.011). Under the present lobbying legislation, any person, the significant part of whose job or function consists of lobbying on behalf of an association or other non-profit group, must be registered by the association or other non-profit group as a lobbyist. This means that most charities and non-profit organizations (“NPOs”) operating in Quebec are not required to seek the registration of their staff unless that person undertakes significant lobbying on behalf of the charity or NPO.
The passage of Bill 56 will increase significantly the number of organizations, including charities and NPOs, that will be required to register their staff as lobbyists. Bill 56 proposes that any director, officer, or employee of a non-profit group (inclusive of charities and NPOs under the Income Tax Act (Canada) and the Taxation Act (Quebec) who lobbies on behalf of that non-profit group or on behalf of a non-profit group which is not considered a legal person, but of which the non-profit group is a member, must be registered as a lobbyist. This rule will apply whether or not the non-profit group is incorporated and whether or not the lobbying activities represent a significant portion of that individual’s job function.
Notably, the definition of “lobbying” has been expanded in Bill 56 to include any oral or written communication with a public office holder in an attempt to influence a decision about “a directive, guidelines or an implementation measure such as a guide, fact sheet or interpretation bulletin” or “a policy direction…ministerial order, order or order in council”. This new criteria, in addition to the existing criteria, will likely operate to catch more individuals under the definition of “lobbyist”. Unfortunately, this will impose a greater registration burden on charities and NPOs (some of which already have limited resources).
We understand that many charities and NPOs are making representations to the government of Quebec requesting that the government reconsider the breath of the legislation. We will monitor the progress of Bill 56.