Report on Investigation — The Lobbying Activities of Will Stewart (Page 7 of 7)
I have taken both the report of the Investigations Directorate and the representations of Mr. Stewart into consideration in reaching my conclusions. I have concluded that Mr. Stewart participated in the fundraising event for the Halton Conservative Association (HCA) held on September 24, 2009. He was not the only organizer, but he was one of the organizers of the event and he played a major role by selling tickets for the event. His actions advanced the interests of the Halton Conservative Association in raising funds to ensure adequate financial resources to contest the next election. The funds raised were not the property of Minister Raitt, nor were they to be used to directly provide a financial benefit to the sitting Member of Parliament and presumptive candidate in the next election. However, at the time of the fundraiser, the funds were intended to be used by the HCA to the benefit of Minister Raitt in her re-election. This, in my opinion, advances the private interest of Minister Raitt, who remains the presumptive candidate at the time of the writing of this report.
During the same period of time, Mr. Stewart was registered to lobby on behalf of a number of clients in respect of subjects that fell within Minister Raitt's responsibilities, as a Minister and as a member of Cabinet Committees. Mr. Stewart communicated with her directly in respect of subject matter for which he registered as a lobbyist. His registrable lobbying activities involving Minister Raitt, while not extensive, were significant. I would agree with the conclusion that Commissioner Dawson reached when looking at Minister Raitt's circumstances in relation to the fundraiser: should a situation arise in which where Minister Raitt may be required to make an official decision involving a client of Mr. Stewart's, she could be subject to allegations of preferential treatment because of the help that Mr. Stewart had provided for the fundraiser. In that respect, the actions of Mr. Stewart have created a reasonable apprehension that the Minister has been placed into a situation of an apparent conflict of interest. This is the situation that Rule 8 is meant to address.
It is my wish that the circumstances outlined in this report will provide additional guidance for lobbyists who wish to engage in political activities and lobbying activities in the future. I take the view, however, that the "general deterrence" of tabling in Parliament a Report on Investigation can also be effective if the Report recognizes the unusual aspects of the specific case. In fairness to Mr. Stewart, I must say that, following the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal on March 12, 2009, lobbyists were placed in a position in which their obligations under Rule 8 of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct had changed. Therefore, given the variety of different factual situations which could arise, it might have been difficult for them to determine the point at which their political activities may have implications for their lobbying activities. This includes the point at which they would risk placing a public office holder into a conflict of interest. Mr. Stewart was clearly in such a situation.
I trust that this Report will provide assistance to lobbyists in reconciling their lobbying activities with political activities that they may be engaged in.