Can lobbying take place during an electoral campaign?

The short answer is yes, but with certain limits related to the specific context of an electoral campaign, as the Quebec national assembly is dissolved and the outgoing MNAs are no longer elected officials but simply candidates.

Before an election is called, many lobbying efforts are realized. The primary objective of these efforts is to obtain a decision or an orientation from public office holders, meaning from ministers, MNAs and civil servants. The opposite is also true, since the goal of certain lobbying activities can be that the government takes no decision before the elections.

How do elections being called modify lobbying efforts?

It is important to understand that the context of an electoral campaign is very different. First, the outgoing government has, in general, taken the primary decisions to be taken before the elections were called. Certainly, specific or exceptional issues can always be the subject of decisions during the campaign, but generally they are not major decisions that could overshadow the electoral campaign.

Secondly, given that the Quebec national assembly is dissolved, the opposition parties, with whom lobbying efforts are often undertaken in order to pressure the government, no longer have access to the parliamentary and legislative structures that usually allow them to influence government decisions.

Lastly, the third major element that strongly influences lobbying activities in ministries and organizations is the fact that civil servants no longer have any interest in moving forward on certain files given that they are waiting for orientations and priorities to be established by new government, once elected.

So, what does lobbying consist of during a campaign?

In this context, and even though government decision-making is reduced to a minimum during the 39 days of the current electoral campaign, several organizations are active and pursue certain lobbying efforts. First off, to ensure that their issues are known by candidates who may become the next MNAs or ministers. Second, to ensure that their files are “on the top of the pile,” and thus considered priorities by the new government. Finally, to maintain pressure and influence decision makers.

Over the course of an electoral campaign, associations, businesses, groups or other types of organizations will make lobbying efforts by organizing meetings, or through written communications or discussions with the candidates of the different political parties. However, several organizations will instead decide to use the voice of the media to make their messages and demands heard, and to try to influence not only candidates and parties, but also public opinion.

Lobbying during an electoral campaign, what does the law say?

First off, as the lobbyist commissioner indicates, the “end of the mandate of an MNA coincides with the dissolution of the national assembly.”  The MNAs thus become candidates and are no longer public office holders. However, this situation is different for ministers, as well as for the president and vice-presidents of the Quebec national assembly, who conserve their duties even during an election period. In effect, they remain in their positions until their successors are designated following the election. The same applies to civil servants, who do not lose their attributes of public office holders during the campaign.

So, if you want to make lobbying efforts during the campaign, do not forget to register your activity with the register of lobbyists if you will address a minister or a civil servant. However, the law does not require that you do so for outgoing MNAs, who are now considered candidates.

On that note, have a good remainder of the campaign!