Report on Investigation — The Lobbying Activities of Michael McSweeney (Page 8 of 8)
Allegation regarding a breach of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct
I have taken both the report of the Investigations Directorate and the representations of Mr. McSweeney into consideration in reaching my conclusions. I have concluded that Mr. McSweeney participated in the fundraising event for the Halton Conservative Association (HCA) held on September 24, 2009. He was not one of the principal organizers, but his role in selling tickets and acting as a contact person was nonetheless an important organizational role. 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 raised 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. McSweeney was registered to lobby on behalf of the Cement Association of Canada in respect of subjects that fell within the Minister Raitt's responsibilities, as a Minister and as a member of Cabinet Committees. Mr. McSweeney communicated with the Minister directly in respect of subject matters for which he registered as a lobbyist. His direct communications with Minister Raitt were not extensive. Nonetheless, 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 where Minister Raitt may be required to make an official decision involving the Cement Association of Canada, she could be subject to allegations of preferential treatment because of the help that Mr. McSweeney had provided for the fundraiser. In that respect, the actions of Mr. McSweeney 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. McSweeney, 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. McSweeney 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.
Allegation regarding a breach of the Lobbying Act
I noted earlier in this Report on Investigation, under the heading "Complaints Received", that an allegation had been made that Mr. McSweeney had contravened paragraph 5(1)(b) of the Lobbying Act, by failing to file a return in respect of his meetings with Minister Raitt within 10 days. This was alleged by Olivia Chow (MP, Trinity-Spadina) in her October 13, 2009 letter to me.
At the time, Mr. McSweeney was employed by the Cement Association of Canada, and was registered as an in-house (organization) lobbyist. He is also currently employed by the CAC and registered as an in-house (organization) lobbyist. As a result, he was and remains subject to the registration requirements set out in section 7 of the Act.
The Cement Association of Canada filed monthly communication returns in respect of meetings with Minister Raitt occurring March 3 and September 24, 2009, both within the time limit specified in subsection 7(4) of the Act.
Mr. McSweeney does not perform activities that necessitate registration as a consultant lobbyist, and he is not required to register the arrangement of a meeting between a public office holder and another person pursuant to paragraph 5(1)(b) of the Act.
In view of this, I have concluded that Mr. McSweeney was not in breach of paragraph 5(1)(b) of the Act.