August 22, 2013 •
November 2014 Elections
On August 21, 2013, the British Columbia Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development announced the province will be making changes to the rules regarding local government elections starting in 2014. The rules apply to candidates, elector organizations, and third party advertisers in elections held for municipalities, regional districts, parks boards, the Islands Trust, and boards of education.
According to the press release, this new set of laws include requiring disclosure and registration by third-party advertisers, requiring sponsorship information be displayed on all election advertising, requiring all campaign finance disclosure statements to be filed 90 days after the election, and banning anonymous contributions. Additional changes will allow Elections BC to play a greater role in the enforcement of campaign finance rules in local elections.
The changes are based upon the recommendations of the joint Provincial and Union of BC Municipalities Local Government Elections Task Force.
In September a white paper outlining the government’s intention will be released. Public comment on the white paper will be open until October 23. Once consolidated, the rules for the November 2014 local elections will be introduced as a new campaign finance act in the spring of 2014.
Consultation with key stakeholders will begin in November to consider further legislative changes for the 2017 elections.
Coralee Oakes, Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development, states in the press release, “These changes are about enhancing transparency and accountability.”
August 2, 2013 •
First conviction under the 1989 Lobbying Act
The first charge and conviction for violating the Lobbying Act resulted in a $7,500 fine for a former federal staffer. Andrew Skaling worked for Tory office holders during the 2004 federal election campaign, while also being retained by the Canadian Network of Respiratory Care to arrange meetings with public officers. Skaling failed to register as a lobbyist, but assured the director of the charity he had.
While there was no evidence Skaling actually met with federal officials to lobby for the charity, the Lobbying Act requires a lobbyist to register within 10 days of being retained. The maximum penalty for failing to register under the Lobbying Act is $50,000 or six months in jail.
May 7, 2013 •
Katz Group and Edmonton Oilers owner had been under fire for $430,000 bundled contribution
Elections Alberta and its Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim have spoken on the Daryl Katz contribution scandal and they believe there was no scandal at all. Daryl Katz, chairman and CEO of The Katz Group and the National Hockey League’s Edmonton Oilers, has been under fire recently after a contribution of $430,000 was delivered to the Alberta Progressive Conservative party from his company last year.
Under Alberta laws, a corporation or individual is only allowed to contribute $30,000 to a political party during a campaign period. However, Fjeldheim ruled the contribution to be legal because the corporation simply collected contributions from individual donors and gave a bundled contribution of $430,000. Seventeen members of the company all contributed no more than the maximum $30,000 to the entire contribution and every person reimbursed the corporation.
In his ruling, Fjeldheim said, “There was no breach [of the contribution laws] because there was clear identification of the funds connected with the actual contributors and each contribution respected the $30,000 limit. Without more, a single payment of $430,000 would have exceeded the limit for a single contribution. However, the investigation revealed that this was not a single contribution of $430,000.”
There is concern within the province this ruling is a sign of things to come and Canadian elections could become similar to the money-happy American way.
However, Alberta Premier Alison Redford said she will not be looking to change the election laws. “What has been put in place is entirely appropriate.”
Not everyone agrees though. York University election financing expert Robert MacDermid said, “It would be simply a license to allow people to give money without disclosing the truth about it. When you have a system that doesn’t control disclosure adequately, when there are holes where people can give significant sums of money and not have to disclose their true identity…that absence of openness and disclosure really does make people question politicians.”
While the next Alberta election is not until 2016, this campaign finance issue is sure to be among the biggest at the time.
January 3, 2013 •
New law expected to decrease illegal contributions
The government’s new bill reducing contributions to political parties became effective on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. National Assembly Bill 2 reduces the limit for private donations from $1,000 to $100, while increasing direct government funding to parties. The bill applies to provincial politics but not municipalities or school boards.
In an election year, voters will have the right to contribute an additional $100, for a maximum of $200. The bill further limits cash donations to $50, down from $100. Leadership candidates, unaffected by the bill, will still be able to collect donations of up to $1,000.
November 26, 2012 •
Fines and illegal contributions may finally become public
The Legislative Assembly of Alberta crept closer to approving changes to the province’s elections act last week. The bill, which is in the process of going through its second reading, will give the chief electoral officer the power to inform the public who is being fined and to better identify parties receiving cash.
This past May, Elections Alberta fined over 20 corporations for making illegal donations, but was unable to identify the corporations fined or the parties receiving the illegal contributions. The bill will allow the department to go back and reveal the fines of the past three years.
The new bill will also increase disclosure rules for people making political contributions. If the bill is approved, parties or constituency associations will have to disclose any donors who contribute $250 or more. Currently, donors can remain anonymous until they contributed at least $375.
However, many in the province do not think the bill goes far enough. Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman said the new bill is “feeble, weak, pale, insufficient, and poor. This is not 21st century thinking and it does not address any of the recent scandals that have come up.”
Once the bill passes the second reading, which it is expected to do, it will head to the Committee of the Whole.
September 18, 2012 •
Additional lobbying penalties still being considered
The federal government has announced plans to extend the reach of the Lobbying Act to senior public servants with spending decision responsibilities. Currently, more than 1,000 people are covered as designated public office holders under the act, which governs interactions between registered lobbyists and politicians, their staffs, and senior bureaucrats. The proposal could more than double the number covered.
The government continues to consider adding small monetary penalties for minor infractions, as well as a removing the exemption for in-house lobbyists whose lobbying activities constitute less than 20 percent of their duties.
July 11, 2012 •
and more news in our Wednesday lobbying, campaign finance, and ethics roundup!
Ottawa, Ontario: “Council endorses lobby registry, integrity commissioner” by Errol McGihon in the Ottowa Sun.
The Hill’s “Lobbying World” staff report.
Alaska: “Assembly to weigh resolution on campaign finance” by The Associated Press in the Juneau Empire.
District of Columbia: “Vast ‘shadow campaign’ said to have aided Gray in 2010” by Mike DeBonis and Nikita Stewart in The Washington Post.
New York: “Cuomo turns to campaign finance” by Jimmy Vielkind in the Albany Times Union.
Pennsylvania: “SEPTA found to violate federal lobbying rules” by Mark Fazlollah in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
West Virginia: “W.Va. group wants contribution limit blocked” by The Associated Press in The Republic.
“Panel Seated in Ethics Inquiry Into Nevada Lawmaker” by Eric Lipton in The New York Times.
May 11, 2012 •
Registration and enforcement would expand
Quebec’s Lobbying Commissioner, François Casgrain, has proposed a major overhaul of the province’s law on lobbying that would expand the number of people required to register as lobbyists. Currently, only people who spend a “significant part” of their time lobbying must register. The proposed changes would require anyone seeking to influence the decision of a public official to register.
Registration would have to be completed by individual lobbyists, ending the practice of employers registering for them. Casgrain wants to expand the enforcement powers of the commission and increase fines for breaking the law. There also would be a blackout on lobbying between publication of a call for tenders on a public contract and the awarding of the contract.
The call for change follows a finding that some parties failed to register as lobbyists during negotiations of a controversial contract award for the still-unbuilt arena.
May 2, 2012 •
Law Took Effect April 30
On April 30, 2012, the Lobbyists Registration Act came into force in the Canadian province of Manitoba. The act requires lobbyists to file returns using an electronic registry system. Although the act was originally passed in 2008, it came into force only this year upon proclamation, allowing the lobbyist registrar the opportunity to create the system with its online component.
The act categorizes lobbyists as either consultant lobbyists or in-house lobbyists. Consultant lobbyists are individuals who, for pay or other benefit, undertake to lobby on behalf of a client. An in-house lobbyist is defined as an employee, partner, or sole proprietor of an organization who lobbies, or has a duty to lobby, on behalf of the organization. However, to be designated as an in-house lobbyist, an individual’s lobbying or duty to lobby has to constitute a significant part of his or her activities, which the regulations define as meeting or exceeding 100 hours annually. Additionally, if an individual’s lobbying, together with lobbying by others in the organization, meets or exceeds 100 hours annually, the senior officer of the organization must file a return.
The act defines lobby to mean communicating with a public official in an attempt to influence the development of a legislative proposal; introducing a bill or resolution before the assembly; making or amending a regulation; developing, amending, or terminating a program or policy; or awarding a financial benefit. For consultant lobbyists the definition of lobby also includes arranging a meeting with a public official or communicating with a public official in an attempt to influence the award of a contract.
Consultant lobbyists already lobbying before April 30th have 30 days to begin filing. If lobbying begins after April 30th, consultant lobbyists have 10 days to file. A senior officer filing on behalf of an organization with in-house lobbyists has two months in which to file, regardless of whether lobbying begins before or after April 30th. Additionally, the officer must file returns within two months after the end of each six-month period after filing the previous return.
December 6, 2011 •
Refinements Wanted for Ottawa Lobbying Code
The councillors explicitly want the differences between advocacy and lobbying to be delineated in order to exempt advocacy activities from registration. The subcommittee differentiated advocacy activities, “communications that state a position for the purpose of a general community benefit, either city-wide or local,” from lobbying activities, “communications that seek to influence a decision for the direct benefit of an individual or the group they represent.”
The clerk’s office is also directed to develop options for a definition of a community association.
Also unsure of the best manner for the city to handle lobbyist activity disclosure, an additional demand was made of the clerk’s staff to “provide a high level overview of options for disclosure, including pros and cons of disclosure by Public Officials only, disclosure by lobbyists only, and dual disclosure.”
A response to the sub-committee is during sometime in the first quarter of 2012. The Governance Renew Sub-Committee is a sub-committee of the Finance and Economic Development standing committee.
Photo of Ottawa in January by SimonP on Wikipedia.
November 3, 2011 •
Loan Prohibition Proposed
Tim Uppal, Canada’s Minister of State for Democratic Reform has proposed a law which would limit loans available to candidates and political parties.
Under the proposed legislation, loans, loan guarantees, and contributions from individuals would be prohibited from exceeding $1,100 in the aggregate per calendar year. Presently, loans are not treated as part of the annual aggregate limit.
The proposal would also ban loans by unions as well as corporations when the loans are not made in the regular course of business by a financial institution.
October 5, 2011 •
Upcoming and recently held elections
Ontario: According to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario website, 39th Parliament of Ontario has been dissolved. General Elections will be held on Thursday, October 6, 2011. You can find out about the election results here.
Yukon: According to the Yukon Legislative Assembly website, a general election to elect the 33rd Legislative Assembly will be held on Tuesday, October 11, 2011.
Recently held elections:
Manitoba: According to the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba website, there was a general election on Tuesday, October 4, 2011.
Northwest Territories: According to the Legislative Assembly of the Northwest Territories website, there was a general election on Monday, October 3, 2011.
Prince Edward Island: According to the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island website, a general election was held on Monday, October 3, 2011.
June 7, 2011 •
New Brunswick to Debate Lobbying Law in Legislative Assembly
Legislation has been introduced in the New Brunswick Legislative Assembly providing for lobbyist registration and regulation.
Government House leader Paul Robichaud introduced Bill No. 43, the Lobbyists’ Registration Act, in response to a push by members of the Tory party for such a law following the discovery that Liberal party insiders were being hired to arrange meetings for energy companies bidding on provincial contracts.
Under the proposed legislation, lobbyists would be required to register, as well as name any companies they work for and the name of the ministers and departments met with. Lobbyists failing to register or making false or misleading statements would be fined up to $25,000 for a first offense and up to $100,000 for any subsequent offense.
The coat of arms for New Brunswick by Civvì on Wikipeida.
January 17, 2011 •
Quebec Turns Calendar to 2011 to Roll Out Recent Campaign Finance Reform
The first of numerous recent changes to Quebec’s campaign finance law has gone into effect with the turn of the calendar into 2011. Touted as the first major reform in financing Quebec’s political parties since 1977, Assembly Bill 113 effectively lowered the contribution limit a voter may contribute to a party or candidate from $3,000 to $1,000 effective on January 1, 2011. Additional changes are set to take effect on May 1, 2011.
Included in these changes is a requirement for all contributions to first pass through the province’s Chief Electoral Officer, who will then distribute the contribution as directed. Further, in an effort to prevent companies from making contributions in the names of employees, all persons making a contribution will now be required to declare the contribution is made out of the person’s own property and voluntarily.
Finally, additional penalties have been created, including a prohibition for three years on the ability of any natural or legal person convicted of a campaign finance offense to acquire a public contract.
Photo of Québec City by Martin St-Amant on Wikipedia.
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