Saskatchewan lobbyist registry now online

For the first time Saskatchewan people will be able to find out who is being paid to lobby government officials.

Public can search database to see who is lobbying government

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ron Barclay has been appointed as the Registrar to oversee the Lobbyists Act. (CBC)

For the first time, the Saskatchewan public will be able to find out who is being paid to lobby government officials.

The province launched its searchable online lobbyist registry on Monday.

Guy Giorno has been lobbying the Saskatchewan government to create a lobbyist registry for a number of years but said the 832-day wait for the registry from when the legislation was passed is better late than never.

It's overdue but it's a welcome decision.- Guy Giorno, Ottawa lawyer

"It's overdue but it's a welcome decision," said Giorno, who worked as chief of staff to former prime minister Stephen Harper.

 "It now means Saskatchewanians are going to have the chance to see who gets paid to influence government decisions."

Justice Minister and Attorney General Gordon Wyant said in a statement that the Lobbyist Act, which is now in effect, "reflects our commitment to ongoing transparency and accountability."

"It is important for citizens to know who is lobbying the government and the lobbyist registry will disclose that information."

Guy Giorno, a former chief of staff to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, says Saskatchewan waited 832 days for the registry after announcing legislation. (The Canadian Press)

Lobbyists Act details

Under the Lobbyists Act, people who are paid to lobby elected Saskatchewan government members and civil servants must register their activities online. Lobby activities include meetings, phone calls, emails and even social media messages.

Several groups are exempt from the lobbying legislation. They include: 

  • Universities.
  • Métis and First Nations.
  • Saskatchewan Urban Municipalities Association.
  • Rural municipalities.
  • Saskatchewan Polytechnic.
  • Volunteer organizations and members of the public pursuing personal interests with MLAs are not required to register.

2 types of lobbyists

There are two types of lobbyists under the act.

Paid 'consultant' lobbyists must register. An `in-house' lobbyist, who is an employee, officer or director of corporation must register once they reach a threshold of 100 hours of lobbying.

Lobbyists have a month to sign up for the registry. After lobbying, they must include names of lobbyists, the public office holders they are communicating with and what they are doing to influence decisions.

Former cabinet minister are prohibited from lobbying for one year after leaving government. Former MLAs and senior public servants face a six-month prohibition. 

Under the act, it is an offence to failing to file a return or to give false information. The maximum penalty for a first offence is $25,000. A second offence comes with a $100,000 fine.

The registrar can also ban a lobbyist for two years.

Politicians and civil servants are not required to register when they are lobbied.

Giorno, who is a lawyer in Ottawa, said one strength of the law in Saskatchewan are the provisions that prevent former elected officials and civil servants from immediately lobbying the government.

He said the province decided not to make all non-profits part of the lobbyist registry. Giorno said those organizations are included in other provinces.

Long delay for registry

The province is the last in western Canada to have a system of lobbyist registration. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are the two holdouts. The province announced the act back in 2013, two years after Premier Brad Wall said it was needed.

All about transparency 

Conflict of Interest Commissioner Ron Barclay has been appointed as registrar. He will oversee the Lobbyists Act and promote compliance by lobbyists.

"The word lobby has negative implications, I disagree," said Barclay "To lobby is an integral part of our democratic system." 

Barclay said the new registry allows both the government and the public the opportunity to know who is lobbying who.

"They(media) may be interested in knowing what lobbyist activities are happening and also for citizens and which public office holders are being targeted by lobbyists." 

"The soul of this legislation is transparency."

Barclay said he expects 400 registrants.


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