Little wonder, then, that in the State of the Union Address President Obama urged Congress to follow the White House lead in reporting on lobbyist meetings: “Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done: put that information online.”

Posting its own reports would be a positive step, but Congress can do better than that. It should look north of the border, where a robust and effective Canadian law shines bright light on the details of lobbying meetings.

Each month in Canada, details (dates, participants and topics) of lobbyists' meetings with Members of Parliament, Senators, senior government officials and political aides are reported and posted online. That is more disclosure and transparency than is currently required by U.S. federal law.

Three features of the Canadian system are especially compelling.

First, Canadian law makes the people doing the lobbying, not the officials being lobbied, responsible for reporting the meetings.

Canada originally considered making public officials responsible to report on meetings, as proposed in President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Canadian law-makers decided that it makes more sense to place legal responsibility on the lobbying industry and the private sector – in other words, on the beneficiaries of the lobbying.

If the regulator wants to check the accuracy of lobbyists' reports, then public officials will share their own meeting records. Otherwise the burden of disclosure remains on the lobbying community.

Second, Canada forces accountability for lobbying transparency to the top of the corporate pyramid.

When employees of a company lobby government officials, the corporate CEO is the one who must report on the meetings. It is a duty that the CEO cannot delegate to underlings. A corporate director who lobbies elected politicians or senior officials must file a separate report for each and every meeting. Again, only the director can make the disclosure. Meanwhile, hired guns, such as consultants and lawyers, must individually report on their lobbying meetings.

Such top-level accountability, combined with potential penalties of fine or imprisonment, ensures that the corporate world understands and appreciates the importance of disclosure of lobbying meetings.

Third, Canada has assigned the job of overseeing compliance to an independent regulator, the Commissioner of Lobbying. Acting on her own initiative as well as in response to complaints, the Commissioner investigates whether lobbyists and corporate CEOs are making full disclosure, as required by law.

When these rules were introduced, Canada’s lobbying industry complained that that the law would curtail the rights of advocacy and free speech. The claim was nonsense, of course.

Everyone has the democratic right to try to influence law makers – what is not a democratic right is to influence law makers in secret. President Obama is right to try to lift that veil of secrecy.

Perhaps Americans will soon enjoy the same, unprecedented disclosure of lobbyists’ meetings as their Canadian neighbors, resulting in a stronger, more transparent democracy.

Fasken Martineau partner Guy Giorno is a Canadian lawyer, author and expert in lobbying law who rejoined the firm in January 2011 after serving as Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister of Canada.