Lobbyists, public office holders and conflict of interest

  • April 16, 2015
  • BakerLaw

On April 14, 2015, the Globe and Mail reported that city councillor and vocal Uber opponent Jim Karygiannis received thousands of dollars in donations from the taxicab industry in the lead up to last year’s election (link to article).

Section 140-45 of the Toronto Municipal Code, Lobbying (the Lobbying By-law), which provides that “lobbyists shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest or in breach of the public office holders’ codes of conduct or standards of behaviour” (link to Toronto Municipal Code’s Lobbying By-law).

The Lobbying By-law is elaborated on in the January 2014 Joint Interpretation Bulletin issued by the Integrity Commission and the Lobbyist Registrar , which outlines what lobbyists are allowed to do during Toronto election campaigns (link to Joint Interpretation Bulletin).  It was also recently considered by the Toronto Lobbyist Registrar in its March 23, 2015 ruling (link to ruling).

Both the recent ruling and the Joint Interpretation Bulletin cite as authority Democracy Watch v Campbell, [2010] 2 FCR 139, 2009 FCA 79, in which the Federal Court of Appeal considered a similar rule under the federal Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct: “Lobbysists shall not place public office holders in a conflict of interest by proposing or undertaking any action that would constitute an improper influence on a public office holder.”  On behalf of client Democracy Watch, bakerlaw argued, and the Court held, that Canada’s Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct should prohibit a lobbyist from doing anything to create a private interest for a public office holder that may compete with that public office holder’s public duty (link to decision).

Bakerlaw is pleased to see this precedent making progress provincially and municipally.  For more information on democratic rights and the electoral process, please contact us (link).

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