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NDP MPs call for investigation into lobbying firm with ties to top Conservative adviser

Jenni Byrne waits to appear as a witness before the procedures and House affairs committee on Thursday, May 11, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Jenni Byrne waits to appear as a witness before the procedures and House affairs committee on Thursday, May 11, 2023 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Two New Democrat MPs are asking the federal lobbying commissioner to investigate what he calls "potentially inappropriate lobbying activities" by top Conservative strategist Jenni Byrne.

On Thursday, the Globe and Mail reported that a federal lobbying firm is located at the same office — and employs many of the same staff — as Jenni Byrne & Associates, a provincial lobbying firm. NDP MPs Charlie Angus and Matthew Green sent a letter to Commissioner of Lobbying Nancy Bélanger calling for a probe of the relationship between the two firms.

"We are writing to you today regarding our concerns about potentially inappropriate lobbying activities by Jenni Byrne," they wrote in the letter.

"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."

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.

She has been seen walking into caucus meetings — spaces typically reserved for elected members, Conservative senators and the most senior staff.

Newly elected Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his wife Anaida wave as they take the stage after winning the leadership, Saturday, September 10, 2022 in Ottawa.
Newly elected Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre and his wife Anaida wave as they take the stage after winning the leadership, Saturday, September 10, 2022 in Ottawa.

Newly elected Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and his wife Anaida wave as they take the stage at the party convention on Saturday, September 10, 2022 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

Forecheck Strategies was incorporated the first business day after Pierre Poilievre was elected Conservative Party leader in September 2023.

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

Some lobbyists listed as working for Forecheck Strategies on the federal lobbying database are listed as employees on the website of Jenni Byrne + Associates, but not on the website of Forecheck Strategies.

There are other similarities between the two firms' websites. Forecheck Strategies's website cited their CEO being "especially good" at "making messes go away" — seemingly referencing a 2015 Globe and Mail profile of Jenni Byrne.

The reference was removed from the company's website after an inquiry from CBC News. Kimber denies Byrne is involved in the firm.

"Forecheck Strategies is a separate entity which Jenni Byrne has no involvement in. She is not and has never been an employee, consultant, director or shareholder. She does not, has not, and will not receive any compensation from Forecheck," said Kimber in a statement sent to CBC News.

Byrne did not respond to a request for comment and the Lobbying Commission's office said it would not comment on specific cases.

"I would suggest that we have a Conflict of Interest Act, we have a lobbying commissioner that sets very vigorous rules and I expect everyone to follow those rules," Dan Albas, a Conservative member of Parliament, said Thursday.

"I'm sure Mr. Poilievre would be the first person to say that."

The Office of the Leader of the Official Opposition did not respond to a request for comment.

Additional questions about provincial lobbying

Byrne also faced questions in February when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the opposition leader of "pretending" to care about high grocery prices because Byrne's firm lobbies on behalf of grocery giant Loblaw.

The Ontario lobbyist registry lists six employees of Jenni Byrne + Associates as registered lobbyists for Loblaw Companies Limited.

"It turns out that [Poilievre's] top adviser is working as a lobbyist for Loblaws. I think Mr. Poilievre owes some explanations to Canadians," said Trudeau at a media appearance in Waterloo, Ont.

Byrne herself is not listed on any public registry as a consultant for Loblaw. She did not respond to a request for comment.

"Let's be clear about the facts here, Jenni Byrne is not and never has been registered to lobby on behalf of Loblaws," said Jefferies in a written statement.

Speaking to a crowd of Vancouver business professionals on March 8, Poilievre took aim at lobbyists, saying they don't represent the interests of the working class.

"My experience with the corporate lobbyists in Ottawa, the main groups there, has been they have been utterly useless in advancing any common sense interests for the people on the ground," he told the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade.

"My message to corporate Canada is that if you want any of your policy agenda pushed forward, you're going to have to convince not just me, but the people of Canada that it is good for them."