Lobbyist watchdog halts investigations over muzzling
B.C.'s registrar of lobbyists says he will no longer investigate complaints of unregistered lobbying because his office doesn't have the mandate to do the job.
In a letter to New Democrat MLA Leonard Krog, David Loukidelis says his role and authority is limited by the terms of the provincial Lobbyists' Registration Act.
"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," Loukidelis wrote in the letter released publicly by Krog.
He said the best he can do is refer a complaint of unregistered lobbying to police for investigation.
"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," he wrote.
Krog had asked Loukidelis to investigate allegations of unregistered lobbying by Liberal insider Patrick Kinsella.
When Kinsella refused to co-operate with any probe, Krog asked the RCMP to review the case and the letter from Loukidelis states "this is the only meaningful recourse, given the circumstances."
"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," Loukidelis wrote in the letter Tuesday.
"This public perception is a matter of concern to me in view of my limited role and authority under the LRA."
The letter notes that Loukidelis has informed the attorney general about his concerns. He remains active in his role as B.C.'s Information and Privacy Commissioner.
Need for change
B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal said there is a clear need for change.
"I have made no secret of the fact that I think that the Act needs to be changed," Oppal said in Victoria Wednesday.
He said that when enacted in 2002, the B.C. lobbyist law was one of the first in Canada and time has overtaken it.
The attorney general said all of Loukidelis' recommendations will be taken into account "and, we need to change the Act."
But it doesn't mean those who contravene the rules can't be investigated, because police do have the authority, he said.
Oppal promised new legislation to strengthen the lobbyist rules but he said he doesn't know when.
Last spring, Oppal said amendments could be tabled by a fall sitting but the Liberal government did not hold a fall sitting of the legislature.
Breaking the rules
Earlier this year a former top aide to Premier Gordon Campbell pleaded guilty to breaching provincial rules on lobbying.
Ken Dobell, Campbell's former deputy minister and a civil servant, was granted an absolute discharge after admitting he breached the lobbyist rules by failing to register.
Former ministers currently have a two-year ban on lobbyist activities and the provincial New Democrats would like that expanded to include all former government bureaucrats and officials.
Violation of provincial lobbyist laws carry a fine of up to $25,000.
Failure to meet the registration provisions of federal lobbyist regulations can result in fines up to $25,000 and or jail sentences of up to six months.
Penalties under the lobbyist regulations can reach $100,000 and or jail sentences of two years.
Under federal rules, people who are paid to communicate with federal public office holders are required to register under the Lobbyist Act, and they have 10 days to report new lobbying activity.