In March 2008, Gordon Campbell intimate Ken Dobell plead guilty to violating British Columbia’s lobbying legislation. Dobell had retired as deputy minister to the premier in 2005 and then busied himself as a lobbyist and beneficiary of lucrative patronage. He failed to register as required by the Lobbyists Registration Act.
Dobell’s case was handled softly by Special Prosecutor Terrence Robertson. Although he found evidence supporting a “substantial likelihood of conviction” for influence peddling under the criminal code, he concluded that prosecuting the more serious offence was not in the public interest. More honestly, he could have said that prosecution was not in the interests of the BC Liberal Party and Ken Dobell.
Two years later, Robertson was handed another Special Prosecutor file by his friends in Victoria. In that case, he declined to charge Liberal MLA Kash heed for offences under the election act but had to withdraw after disclosure of financial connections to the BC Liberal Party by Robertson and and his law firm, Harper Grey. Heed was ultimately fined $11,000 after action by a new prosecutor but the case continues to reverberate with new claims from campaign official Barinder Sall that illegalities remain undisclosed.
Today, we have more evidence of the contempt BC Liberals hold for ethical behaviour. The federal Commissioner of Lobbying found two associates of former Premier Campbell breached Canada’s Code of Lobbying. Mark Jiles, Campbell campaign manager and longtime partner of Patrick Kinsella, and Graham Bruce, former BC Liberal cabinet minister, were both censured.
The Commissioner found that:
“Jiles was not registered as a consultant lobbyist for either the State of Washington or the Motion Picture Production Industry Association of British Columbia when the [lobbying] activities described in this report took place.”
Similarly, she determined that:
“Mr. Bruce was not registered as a consultant lobbyist for the Cowichan First Nation, Cowichan Tribes or the Cowichan Journey of a Generation Society when the activities described in this Report took place.”
I find it interesting to note that Jiles, Bruce and other influence peddlers may have offended the law but face no real consequences; there are no fines or jail terms for breaches of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.
The Commissioner of Lobbying is the quintessential toothless watchdog. Investigations by the agency are conducted in private but, if they uncover evidence of illegality, they are required to terminate the investigation and refer the matter to a peace officer, usually the RCMP. No one has ever been charged or convicted of an offence under the Lobbying Act despite the Commissioner forwarding comprehensive, well-documented case files to the RCMP. The police agency averages 8 months to review files but has never considered any case worthy of prosecution.
Of course, this is standard police procedure when crime is committed by persons of high social status. Amid the paucity of criminal charges against executives linked to international financial disasters of recent years is the count of arrests at Occupy Wall Street demonstrations around the USA. That now stands at almost 3,000 people.