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Lobbying of Prime Minister’s Office Saw 43% Increase Last Year: Watchdog

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The lobbying of officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) increased by more than 43 percent last year compared to the previous fiscal year, says Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger, contributing to an all-time lobbying high last year in Ottawa.

In her “Annual report 2022-23,” Bélanger writes that in 2022, PMO officials were lobbied through both “oral and arranged communications … including where the prime minister also participated” a total of 1,602 times.

That number represents a 43.4 percent increase over the 1,117 times that the PMO was lobbied in the 2021-22 fiscal year, according to Bélanger’s previous annual report.

In this year’s report, the commissioner said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself was lobbied 56 times in 2022-23, only three more times than the previous year.

However, lobbying of senators, ministers, and MPs saw a large jump in the past year.

Senators were lobbied only 929 times in 2021-22, but that number jumped more than 52 percent last year to 1,421. Lobbying of ministers jumped by around 16 percent last year, with Bélanger recording 2,130 instances where cabinet members were lobbied.

Lobbying of all MPs saw a 21-percent increase in 2022-23, as Bélanger counted 11,511 instances where they were lobbied compared to 9,465 in the previous year.

Lobbying Code

Bélanger said that the “number of registrations and registered lobbyists” continues growing in Ottawa each year.

The commissioner counted just over 3,375 organizations and corporations named in lobbying registrations and around 8,465 individual lobbyists registered at least once throughout 2022-23, representing a slight increase over the previous year.

The release of Bélanger’s annual report comes shortly after she voiced concerns about a lack of lobbying oversight in Ottawa, and also not long before new changes to the “Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct” will come into effect in July.

“We will focus on ensuring that lobbyists understand the changes. We will also continue to push to strengthen the lobbying regime,” Bélanger wrote in her annual report.

Among other changes, the newly revised code will aim to broadly restrict lobbying by public-office holders, which will include individuals who work as unpaid campaign volunteers.

The new code will define “political work” in a broad sense to include activities like “soliciting or gathering donations,” which is often done by volunteers.

Bélanger told The Globe and Mail in early June that she believes every instance of “oral communication” between lobbyists and MPs, ministers, or officials should be disclosed for transparency “irrespective of whether it’s arranged and irrespective of who arranged it.”

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