July 02, 2015 - 6:00 AM
VICTORIA - Fines have been levied against a who's who of British Columbia's political movers and shakers as part of a crackdown on lobbyists by the province's privacy czar.
Elizabeth Denham, who is also B.C.'s registrar of lobbyists, said Tuesday that efforts to educate the influence peddlers weren't sinking in, so she had to levy fines and name names to improve their behaviour.
Her annual report said former B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair was fined $1,000, B.C. Liberal power broker Patrick Kinsella was fined $1,500, Vancouver Liberal Brad Zubyk was fined $600, and Ben Chin, one of Premier Christy Clark's chief communications officials, was fined $500.
The fines were charged mainly for failing to meet deadlines to report lobbying activities to the registrar, while Chin was fined for not deregistering as a lobbyist prior to starting work for the premier before the 2013 provincial election.
"I think the message is getting out there," said Denham in an interview. "Issuing these public reports and the fines appears to be a disincentive for lobbyists for the community to make mistakes. We certainly don't have any reoffenders."
Her annual Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists of B.C. report for 2014-2015 stated it completed 153 compliance reviews, conducted 18 formal investigations and issued six administrative penalties for failing to comply with the Lobbyists Registration Act.
Lobbyists consistently make the same mistakes when it comes to following the law. They misunderstand what constitutes lobbying, fail to identify registration timelines and ignore requirements to update and correct disclosure statements, her report stated.
"For the first three years when I was registrar we did a lot of education," said Denham. "We held conferences. We issued guidance. We had a newsletter. But it was time, because some lobbyists are not taking the rules seriously, for us to use the sanctions we were given by the legislature, including administrative monetary penalties."
She said seven other lobbyists in the coming months will likely face fines for breaches of the law.
Denham said one investigation, which is currently under appeal, could result in a fine of up to $5,000. Denham said she could not name the lobbyist due to the appeal.
Denham's report stated the top targets of B.C. lobbyists are cabinet ministers, members of the legislature, public agencies, ministerial staff and the staff of legislative members.
The report stated the top five subject matters for B.C. lobbyists are health, energy, environment, transportation and forestry.
Denham also released her annual privacy commissioner's report on the oversight and enforcement of B.C.'s privacy laws, among which was her office's investigation into the misuse of police information in employment background checks.
News from © Canadian Press, 2015