Canada Lobbying commissioner clears Rob Silver, who is husband of PM's chief of staff

01:45  11 june  2021
01:45  11 june  2021 Source:   thecanadianpress.com

Tories allege 'insider access and backroom dealing' after lobbying watchdog clears spouse of Trudeau’s chief of staff

  Tories allege 'insider access and backroom dealing' after lobbying watchdog clears spouse of Trudeau’s chief of staff OTTAWA — The Conservative Party on Friday took issue with a recent report by the lobbying commissioner that cleared the spouse of Trudeau’s chief of staff, saying the ruling was evidence of the sort of “insider access and backroom dealing” that go largely unchecked in Ottawa. The federal commissioner on Thursday cleared Rob Silver, whose wife Katie Telford has worked as Trudeau’s chief of staff since 2015, saying his conversations with federal officials over a key COVID-19 subsidy program fell “well short” of the threshold that would have required him to register as a lobbyist.

The husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’ s chief of staff lobbied the government to change emergency coronavirus funding to benefit his company. According to Vice, the Senior Vice-President of the mortgage firm MCAP Rob Silver met with ex-finance minister Bill Morneau to propose a change Anonymous sources told Vice that Silver went so far as to propose specific wording of the changes, adding that the change would have benefitted few companies other than MCAP. Silver , who is not a registered lobbyist , reportedly made Morneau’ s former staff “very uncomfortable” with his attempts to

The Conservatives have again asked Lobbying Commissioner Nancy Bélanger to investigate the activities of the spouse of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau' s chief of staff , amid allegations of improper lobbying . Vice reported last month that Rob Silver had contacted staff in the Prime Minister' s Office and then-finance minister Bill Morneau' s office to ask for changes to the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS). Those changes would make MCAP, the mortgage and insurance company for which Silver works, eligible for the program.

OTTAWA — Rob Silver, the husband of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's chief of staff, has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the federal lobbying commissioner.

Nancy Belanger says Silver spent about 70 minutes cumulatively talking to public office holders about two different emergency aid programs on behalf of mortgage finance company MCAP.

She says MCAP staff put in another two hours of preparation time for those discussions.

Belanger concludes the "low volume and short duration" of Silver's communications fall "well short" of the threshold that would have required MCAP or Silver to register their lobbying activities.

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Robert Silver , who is married to Katie Telford, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau' s Chief of Staff . Photo by robsilver/Twitter. Article content. OTTAWA – Robert Silver , husband of the prime minister’ s chief of staff , repeatedly pushed the Trudeau government to make changes to the federal wage subsidy in a failed bid to make his new employer eligible for the multi-billion dollar aid program. According to two sources with knowledge of the situation, Silver , senior vice-president, strategy, policy, risk at private mortgage company MCAP, approached ex-Finance Minister Bill Morneau’ s office in April asking for

The federal lobbying commissioner is reviewing a report that Rob Silver , the spouse of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’ s chief of staff , Katie Telford, contacted senior Liberal staff on behalf of his employer’ s efforts to seek changes to the federal wage subsidy program. The Prime Minister’ s Office takes all its obligations regarding ethics very seriously and follows the rules,” the office said. Pierre-Olivier Herbert, who was director of communications to Mr. Morneau, provided a statement on Friday that did not directly respond to questions about whether Mr. Silver contacted the minister’ s office.

Belanger's findings Thursday mark the second time Silver has been cleared of opposition parties' allegations of misconduct involving pandemic aid programs.

Last September, federal ethics commissioner Mario Dion dismissed Conservative allegations of conflict of interest against Silver and his wife, Katie Telford. He called those allegations "speculative" and without "a factual basis to support" them.

At issue for both commissioners were reports that Silver had contacted officials in the Prime Minister's Office and the finance ministers' office about a rent relief program and the wage subsidy program.

Opposition parties pointed to those reports to allege evidence of improper insider access to government programs.

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Ethics commissioner Mario Dion says the allegations are "speculative" and do not provide "a factual basis to support the belief that a contravention" of the Conflict of Interest Act may have occurred. Consequently, Dion says he' s informed Conservative MPs Pierre Poilievre and Michael Barrett that their request for an investigation does not meet the requirements of the act. 15 letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, to Trudeau' s chief of staff , Katie Telford. The Conservatives' allegations revolved around a report that Telford' s husband , Rob Silver , had lobbied aides in the Prime Minister' s Office

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at a cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Sept. The PMO said Wednesday that McNair, whom the Conservatives had also accused of conflict of While the ethics commissioner has dismissed the matter, the office of federal lobbying Share this Story: Ethics watchdog dismisses conflict of interest charges against PM ' s chief of staff .

They pointed to the fact that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation last April awarded MCAP a $56-million contract to administer the federal government’s Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program. Silver took part in a June meeting with CMHC about the program, which was extended in July.

CMHC and the Liberals have said the decision to involve MCAP was made strictly by the Crown agency, with no involvement by the government, Silver or Telford.

Opposition parties also pounced on a report that Silver had contacted one person in the PMO, Mike McNair, and various officials in the finance minister's office to suggest changes to the wage subsidy program, which would have allowed MCAP to be eligible.

Dion concluded that Telford, who had set up a conflict of interest screen to prevent her direct involvement in anything to do with MCAP, was not involved in either case.

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The UK’ s High Court has ruled that the British government acted unlawfully by handing a company run by friends of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’ s former chief adviser Dominic Cummings a £560,000 (4,000) Covid contract. Public First is a London-based policy and research company that is run by James Frayne, linked to Cummings, and Rachel Wolf, who is a former adviser to government minister Michael Gove.

The Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada is an officer of Parliament of Canada who is responsible for achieving the objectives of the Lobbying Act that came into force in 2008. The Office replaced the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists .

In her report, Belanger says Silver contacted her office before joining MCAP in January 2020 to confirm that he should not lobby Trudeau or his office but was not precluded from lobbying other ministers' offices.

While he did subsequently contact McNair about the wage subsidy program, McNair was at the time working on a voluntary basis in the PMO to help out with the pandemic and was, therefore, not a public office holder as defined by the Lobbying Act. McNair referred Silver to the finance minister's office.

Another contact with a PMO official about the rent relief program was strictly to update her about the progress of the program.

The Lobbying Act requires a company to register in-house lobbying activities when communications with public office holders constitute "a significant part" of the duties of its employees, either individually or collectively.

The commissioner has interpreted that to mean the equivalent of 20 per cent or more of the duties of any one employee, including preparation time — about 32 hours over a four-week period.

While Belanger concluded that Silver and MCAP did not do enough lobbying to warrant registering with her office, she said the case demonstrates how difficult it is to determine whether in-house lobbyists are spending "a significant part" of their duties lobbying public office holders.

Moreover, she said, "this threshold allows a substantial volume of in-house lobbying activity to go unreported."

Belanger reiterated her recommendation that the "significant part of duties" provision be removed from the Lobbying Act so that anyone who lobbies for any amount of time would be required to register in future.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 10, 2021.

Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press

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