Canada's lobbying commissioner has found that former Alberta MP Rahim Jaffer and associate Patrick Glemaud broke federal rules when they sought more than $175 million in government funds for their green power company.
In a decision delivered Monday, lobbying commissioner Karen Shepherd ruled that Jaffer - a former Edmonton Tory MP - and Glemaud breached the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct by failing to register as lobbyists when they tried in 2009 to obtain about $178 million in federal cash for their company GPG-Green Power Generation Corp.
The lobbying commissioner investigated 10 allegations concerning the two men as in-house lobbyists for GPG and concluded they breached the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct in five of allegations.
``Green Power Generation was a commercial enterprise established with the intention of generating revenue. Although Mr. Glemaud and Mr. Jaffer were not successful in securing more than $178 million in government funding that they were seeking, their activities required registration,'' Shepherd said in a statement.
``This report shows that registration is required even if the desired outcome is not achieved.''
Breaches of the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct carry no fines or jail terms. However, in an interview, Shepherd maintained the case should serve as a reminder to all lobbyists that there are consequences to not registering.
Lobbyists found to have broken the federal rules will have difficulty obtaining clients and businesses won't want to be associated with individuals who are exposed for their wrongdoing, she said.
``I don't think people want to see their names in a report to Parliament and their clients don't want to see people they've engaged either in reports to Parliament in this type of manner,'' she said.
Jaffer and Glemaud lobbied the Conservative government for cash out of the $1-billion federal Green Infrastructure Fund, which was to allocate money to sustainable energy projects over five years.
The partners met with several senior federal Tory ministers, including former environment minister Jim Prentice, as well as then-infrastructure minister John Baird and his parliamentary secretary Brian Jean.
Glemaud and Jaffer submitted proposals for $100 million in federal funding - a quarter of the total cost - to help build 11 renewable energy facilities across Canada using a technology called the BioDryer.
They also requested an additional $58 million to help develop a solar power facility near Brockville, Ont., and another $20 million to manufacture and install new power station technology at interprovincial and international bridges, ports and highways. Another $700,000 was sought, on behalf of another company, for a mercury capture test project at the Keephills coal-fired power plant in Alberta.
The company didn't receive any funding, was dissolved in July 2010 and is no longer in operation.
Jaffer and Glemaud couldn't be reached for comment, but their views are summarized in the report.
Jaffer, the former Conservative caucus chairman who was defeated in the 2008 federal election, raised concerns about some of the definitions of the lobbying rules and characterized some of their activities as an information-gathering exercise. He also argued that he didn't need to register as a lobbyist because they were unsuccessful in obtaining federal grants.
``He also raised the argument that the proposals submitted were not successful and therefore not registrable activities,'' Shepherd says in the report. ``Mr. Jaffer questioned my motivation for pursuing this matter given that the RCMP had elected not to lay charges.''
Glemaud raised concerns that the Lobbying Act contains ``often ambiguous provisions'' and that the act and code of conduct are difficult to interpret and apply.
The Prime Minister's Office, in a statement, said the government has adopted tough laws to ensure lobbying in Canada ``takes place above board and according to the rules.''
``That is why we referred all non-reported meetings to the lobbying commissioner of Canada for her review,'' Andrew MacDougall, spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, said in a statement.
``The lobbying commissioner was clear in her report that Mr. Glemaud and Mr. Jaffer did not secure any government funding.''
Federal law adopted by the Conservative government prohibits MPs, senators and political staffers from lobbying government for five years after leaving office. However, prior to September 2010, MPs and senators weren't considered designated public office holders and the five-year ban didn't apply to them.
NDP member of Parliament Pat Martin said the findings highlight the serious concerns his party has about unregistered, well-connected Conservatives ``peddling influence in the corridors of power, seemingly without any consequences when they're caught.''
``The jury is in on the Rahim Jaffer affair and the verdict is guilty, guilty and guilty. We're very concerned (about) the pattern that this indicates,'' Martin said.
The payday for Jaffer could have been in the millions, he noted, when the penalty is little more than a slap on the wrist and a bruised reputation.
``What's worrisome to us (is) . . . there's very little consequences,'' he added.
Earlier this year, a parliamentary committee concluded Jaffer's testimony regarding allegations of illegal lobbying and influence peddling amounted to an abuse of parliamentary privilege.
In March, the operations and estimates committee detailed ``four main inconsistencies'' in Jaffer's testimony during a probe into government-funded renewable energy projects.
The committee found there were a number of contradictions between Jaffer's testimony and that of other witnesses - contradictions he failed to clarify when called upon a second time.
Also this year, the federal ethics commissioner found that Jaffer's wife - former Conservative cabinet minister Helena Guergis - violated the parliamentary code of ethics when she made a recommendation that was in the best interests of her husband.
The ethics violations stemmed from September 2009, when Guergis sent a letter, written on parliamentary letterhead, to municipal officials in Simcoe County, the Ontario riding she represented at the time.
The letter encouraged the warden and council members to allow a constituent, Jim Wright, to make a public presentation to council on the benefits of his company's green-waste management technology.
Jaffer was connected to Wright's company, Wright Tech Systems Inc.
Guergis was booted from the Conservative caucus in April 2010 and lost her seat in the May federal election while running as an independent.