Politics

Federal lobbying commissioner assessing allegations against firm, top Conservative adviser

The federal lobbying commissioner confirmed Tuesday that a 'preliminary assessment' has been opened into allegations regarding top Conservative strategist Jenni Byrne and a federal lobbying firm.

Preliminary assessment is made to see if an investigation is necessary

A woman wearing glasses.
Jenni Byrne, a senior advisor to Pierre Poilievre, waits to appear before the Procedure and House Affairs committee meeting, on May 11, in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The federal lobbying commissioner confirmed Tuesday that a "preliminary assessment" has been opened into allegations against top Conservative strategist Jenni Byrne and a federal lobbying firm.

In March, the Globe and Mail reported the federal lobbying firm — called Forecheck Strategies —  is located at the same office as Jenni Byrne + Associates, a provincial lobbying firm. 

In addition to employing many of the same staff as Jenni Byrne + Associates, Forecheck Strategies is owned by Andrew Kimber and Simon Jefferies, who are also part-owners of Jenni Byrne + Associates.

Although Byrne's exact role with the Conservative Party is murky — neither she nor the party will confirm how she is involved — she is viewed as one of the most powerful Conservative strategists in Canada.

During a House ethics committee meeting on Tuesday, Liberal MP Darren Fisher asked lobbying commissioner Nancy Bélanger whether it raises suspicions "when people are so ultra-fluid in their registrations."

In response, Bélanger said, "The reality is that I don't know because I'm in the process of doing my work."

She then added that "the preliminary assessment has been opened" and she looks at every allegation she receives.

A woman in businesswear leans forward, against a black background.
Nancy Belanger, Commissioner of Lobbying waits to appear at the Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics committee, in Ottawa, on June 20. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

According to the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying's website, all allegations are taken seriously. A preliminary assessment is conducted to see if the matter falls within the commissioner's mandate and jurisdiction —  and whether an investigation is necessary.

In a statement to CBC, Kimber said that Forecheck Strategies has not been contacted by the lobbying commissioner "but will fully cooperate with any questions she may have in the future."

"All our lobbying activity is fully registered and compliant with the Lobbying Act," Kimber added.

Shortly after the Globe and Mail released its report, NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Matthew Green sent a letter to Bélanger calling for a probe into Byrne and the relationship between the two firms.

"Given Ms. Byrne's advisory role and close relationship to (Conservative Leader Pierre) Poilievre and the Conservative caucus, Canadians deserve clarity on her lobbying activities," they wrote in the letter.

Bélanger told MPs that she would not comment on Byrne and her role, and noted she is not currently registered to lobby the federal government.

In his statement to CBC, Kimber said that Byrne "has never been an employee, consultant, director or shareholder" of Forecheck Strategies.

"She does not, has not, and will not receive any compensation from Forecheck," Kimber concluded.

In a statement to CBC, Byrne said that Jenni Byrne + Associates has also not been contacted by the lobbying commissioner but will fully cooperate if contacted.

Furthermore, Byrne said the firm does not lobby federally.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Benjamin Lopez Steven is a reporter and part-time writer for CBC News Network. He's also a recent journalism graduate from Carleton University. You can reach him at benjamin.steven@cbc.ca or find him on Twitter at @bensteven_s.

With files from Kate McKenna