Registrar refuses to investigate complaints

British Columbia's lobbyists registrar will no longer be investigating alleged violations of the Lobbyists Registration Act. In a letter sent to provincial New Democrat attorney general critic Leonard Korg, David Loukidelis states he doesn't have the legal "tools necessary to properly investigate and address complaints" under the act - a concern he has shared with Attorney General Wally Oppal. And, until he does have those tools, Mr. Loukidelis's "general policy" will be to "decline to investigate" such complaints. The admission comes after provincial Liberal backroom boy Patrick Kinsella refused to "consent to any investigation or reporting" into his interactions with the Campbell administration by the registrar. Mr. Loukidelis also states that, as a result of that refusal, he agrees with Mr. Krog that the "only meaningful recourse" available is to contact the police.

Mr. Kinsella has never registered as a lobbyist. In the past, he has repeatedly denied ever lobbying the government he was instrumental in electing. And, according to a written statement issued by his company, The Progressive Group is "confident it has consistently and correctly followed the requirements of the Act," registering "each and every" time it communicates with public office holders on behalf of clients.

But a national payday loan company executive has told Public Eye his firm hired Mr. Kinsella to do lobbying work. Earlier records exclusively obtained by Public Eye also show Mr. Kinsella's strategic communications company has helped win major contracts and benefits for foreign and business interests. And those same records show Mr. Kinsella was scheduled to repeatedly meet with one government minister.

Under the act, consultant lobbyists are required to sign-up if they, for pay, communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence government - although there are some exceptions to that rule. But consultants must always register if they, for pay, arrange a meeting with an office holder and another "person."

The following is a complete copy of Mr. Loukidelis's letter.

***

October 7, 2008

Leonard Krog, MLA
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Paul R. Cassidy
Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP
Suite 2600
595 Burrard Street
Vancouver, BC V7X 1L3

Mark Jiles
c/o The Progressive Group
2694-1055 Dunsmuir
Vancouver, BC V7X 1L4

Complaint under the Lobbyists Registration Act ("LRA") - OIPC File Nos. L07-31948 and L08-35189

This is further to the communications from my Executive Director, Mary Carlson, advising that my office was examining the complaint by Leonard Krog MLA, first made in June 5, 2008, alleging that Patrick Kinsella and Mark Jiles engage in unregistered lobbying in contravention of the LRA.

As indicated in my October 2, 2008 letter to Paul Cassidy, counsel to Mr. Kinsella, I became directly involved in this matter last week. One reason for this is the public attention the complaint was receiving. Another reason is the legislative reform I have been advocating for the LRA.

The allegations are that Patrick Kinsella and Mark Jiles, through The Progressive Group (of which they are both principals) or Bluestone (possibly a.k.a. Blue Stone Consulting Inc., of which Mr. Jiles is a principal), engaged in unregistered lobbying of public office holders for various clients from 2002 through 2007.

Mr. Cassidy has said that, while Mr. Kinsella was not foreclosing cooperating with a registrar's investigation, he does not consent to any investigation or reporting by me respecting Mr. Krog's allegations and he maintains that any investigation undertaken would be without legal authority and therefore "moot".

In my May 2007 Report on the Registration of Ken Dobell under the Lobbyists Registration Act, I said this:

[1] The registrar has a limited role to verify information provided in filings under the LRA, to request clarifying information about filings or to reject filings. The registrar has no formal complaint-handling or investigative powers. Quite deliberately, in my view, the registrar's mandate, powers and resources do not support external investigative work. I therefore concluded that I did not have any legal authority to compel Mr. Dobell or anyone else to testify under oath or otherwise to cooperate with my review.

Because of my restricted mandate under the LRA, I am unable to gather information from unwilling parties or to impose corrective measures or sanctions even if I were to believe that a person has engaged in unregistered lobbying. At best, I can refer a complaint of unregistered lobbying, and information that I have about it, to the relevant police force to investigate whether there is evidence of offences under the LRA. This is what I did in the Dobell case, where Mr. Dobell had, quite responsibly, consented to and fully co-operated with my inquiries about his registration status under the LRA and about whether he ought to have registered earlier than he did.

I realize that Mr. Krog had wanted my office to conduct a full and comprehensive investigation of his allegations against Mr. Kinsella and Mr. Jiles of unregistered lobbying for numerous clients over a period of some six years. I understand he has now reported his allegations to the police. I have to concur that this is the only meaningful recourse that is available given the circumstances, including the state of my mandate and powerts under the LRA. In view of my limited role and authority as registrar, I do not intend to investigate or report on these allegations of unregistered lobbying.

There is a public perception that my office can meaningfully address allegations of unregistered lobbying and my office has received numerous complaints in recent months. This public perception is a matter of concern to me in view of my limited role and authority under the LRA. In the absence of the tools necessary to properly investigate and address complaints under the LRA, my general policy will now be to decline to investigate complaints until I have the mandate to do so under the LRA. I have been in communication with the Attorney General about this aspect of the LRA.

Yours sincerely

David Loukidelis
Registrar of Lobbyists

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