IN THE NEWS ~ B.C. lobbyists breached code: commissioner

Published | Publié: 2011-11-02
Received | Reçu: 2011-11-02 4:50 AM
VANCOUVER SUN (FINAL) VANCOUVER SUN (FINAL)
CANADA & WORLD, Page: B2

B.C. lobbyists breached code: commissioner

Mark Jiles and former Liberal cabinet minister Graham Bruce conducted unregistered lobbying of federal officials, investigation finds

Peter O'Neil, Vancouver Sun; With Files From Jonathan Fowlie

   Federal Lobbying Commissioner Karen Shepherd has found that prominent B.C. political lobbyist Mark Jiles violated the federal Code of Conduct while lobbying then foreign affairs minister David Emerson's office in 2006 about getting his client Olympicrelated business.

   But Shepherd cleared Jiles' business partner, political organizer Patrick Kinsella, of allegations made by the NDP that he also engaged in unregistered lobbying of federal officials.

   'CONSEQUENCES'

   Jiles and four other Canadians who operated as unregistered lobbyists, including former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Graham Bruce, were found in breach of the code's provisions relating to professionalism, the requirement to provide accurate information and the responsibility of lobbyists to disclose obligations.

   Shepherd, who stressed lobbying is legal as long as activities are fully disclosed, said her investigation proves there are "consequences" for those who engage in unregistered lobbying even though no fines or jail terms were involved.

   "A lobbyist's reputation is, I think, important in terms of their ability to maintain and attract clients, so this is where I'm saying there are potential consequences of breaching the code," she said.

   In 2008, when the NDP alleged Emerson's office was engaged in meetings with unregistered lobbyists acting for Washington state, the Conservatives dismissed the criticism.

   Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore said at the time that neither he nor Emerson met with the lobbyists.

   "The NDP can invent its scandals about this," said Moore, then Emerson's parliamentary secretary while Emerson, a Vancouver MP, was also responsible for the Olympics.

   A spokesman for Moore said Tuesday the minister would not comment since it is an issue under the mandate of Treasury Board Minister Tony Clement.

   There was no immediate reply to an email to Clement's communications director.

   ARRANGED MEETING

   While Shepherd's report did not find that either MP met with unregistered lobbyists, it did conclude that in May 2006 Jiles arranged for one of Emerson's "ministerial assistants" to meet "with a number of key officials from the state of Washington in the minister's British Columbia regional office to discuss business opportunities in relation to the 2010 Olympics."

   The commissioner's report noted the contract signed with the state of Washington, which paid the Progressive Group $15,000 in the May-June period of 2006, identified Emerson as a "key individual within targeted business, political and Olympic circles."

   The report didn't specify what kind of Olympic-related propositions were being advocated for Washington companies.

   Former NDP MP Dawn Black told the House of Commons in 2008 that Emerson's office "encouraged Washington state to talk with Vanoc [the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee] about the possibility of having the 2010 torch relay travel through a portion of Washington state."

   The report noted that Jiles runs his own sports marketing company, Bluestone Group, and is also Kinsella's partner at the Progressive Group.

   Jiles also was found in breach in relation to his activities on behalf of the Motion Picture Production Industry Association (MPPIA).

   Shepherd's report said there was no evidence to support NDP charges Jiles also engaged in unregistered lobbying of the federal government on behalf of two companies, Canfor Forest Products and Orca Creative.

   Jiles, in his letter to Shepherd earlier this year, said in his defence that neither Washington state nor the MPPIA "considered that they retained me for any lobbying purpose whatsoever" and that her conclusion was therefore "patently flawed."

   CHANGE IN RULES

   Shepherd, however, said Jiles may have overlooked a 2005 change in the rules removing exemptions in cases where public office holders sought meetings with clients of lobbyists.

   The Jiles-Kinsella investigation was launched in 2008 at the request of federal NDP MP Peter Julian and provincial NDP MLA Leonard Krog.

   On Tuesday, Krog said he thinks the result sends an important signal.

   "Trust in government is absolutely fundamental. You cannot have trust in government when you see former cabinet ministers, closely connected insiders to government, spending their time persuading government and officials of government to do things that benefit their clients," he said. "They're getting paid for it. The people have a right to know when they're doing it."

   Shepherd's report said the Bruce investigation was prompted in part by a report in The Vancouver Sun in 2007 relating to the former cabinet minister's lobbying work on behalf of the Cowichan Indian Band. Bruce told investigators his $16,666-a-month contract with the Cowichan meant he was an employee and therefore exempt from the federal act.

   But Shepherd said she didn't accept that argument and concluded he was acting as a lobbyist when he set up meetings with former Tory ministers Emerson, Chuck Strahl and Gary Lunn.

   poneil@postmedia.com

   Twitter.com/poneilinottawa