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.
More than half of MCAP is owned by the Caisse de dépôt et placement de Québec, the province’s pension fund, which makes it unable to tap into the program. Silver is married to Trudeau’s chief of staff, Katie Telford.
The Globe and Mail reported last month that MCAP had secured a $84-million contract to administer the Canada Emergency Rent Assistance program.
Conservative MPs Michael Barrett and Pierre Poilievre wrote to Bélanger on Aug. 10 asking her to look into whether Silver or MCAP should have been registered to lobby the federal government.
After Vice’s report alleging improper lobbying, Bélanger said she was beginning a “preliminary assessment” into the matter but would not confirm if an investigation was underway.
Barrett and Poilievre’s letter on Thursday asks the commissioner “to open a second assessment into the unregistered communications between Mr. Silver, the Prime Minister’s Office and the former finance minister’s office on amending the wage subsidy program in order for MCAP to qualify.”
Proper procedures followed: PMO
After Bélanger revealed her office was making preliminary inquiries, the PMO said all the proper procedures had been followed.
“Before Mr. Silver was hired at MCAP, Ms. Telford proactively reached out to the office of the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner in January to inquire if any action was required on her part,” the PMO said in a statement.
“The office said no additional measures were required. However, out of an abundance of caution, Ms. Telford implemented a voluntary conflict screen” — at step short of a blind trust to prevent conflicts of interest — “at that time. This screen applies to anything related to MCAP and it has been diligently followed since it was implemented.”
The statement also said that Telford has not been involved in any discussions related to MCAP and that the PMO “follows the rules.”
A spokesperson for MCAP said the company has complied with the “letter and spirit” of the law regarding the matter.
“MCAP, through counsel, consulted with Canada’s Lobbying Commissioner in January to establish proper screens and protocols around any engagement with government,” the statement said.
“MCAP and its employees and officers have strictly complied with the letter and spirit of this guidance and all applicable laws.”