B.C.’s lobbyist watchdog slapped the head of the non-union construction lobby with a $1,000 fine.
The Sept. 13 Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists investigation report was finally published Oct. 23 after Speaker Darryl Plecas tabled it in the Legislature.
Investigator Trevor Presley cited Chris Gardner, former principal secretary to ex-Premier Christy Clark, for failing to update the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association’s lobbying registration within 30 days of becoming president.
Gardner succeeded Gord Stewart on Feb. 7 and became the designated filer and in-house lobbyist for the ICBA under the lobbying law.
Presley’s report said ORL tried to contact Stewart, whose name was still in the registry, on May 3, but he did not respond. Five days later, on May 8, ORL emailed Gardner asking him to change the designated filer.
“The new president did not respond and did not update the designated filer,” said the report.
On May 19, Gardner told the ORL that he did not have the password for the government website on which to update the registration. Gardner had still not updated the registration by the time it expired June 7.
“The designated filer for ICBA responded on June 6, advising that ICBA failed to update the registration within 30 days owing to the transition that occurred following his appointment as president of ICBA on Feb. 7,” Presley wrote.
Gardner responded on June 28 with a letter that said: “Prior to my current role, I have had no occasion to file a registration under the Lobbyists Registration Act and was unaware of the requirement to amend ICBA’s existing registration. I say that not as an excuse but as a candid explanation for the cause of the delay that you are reviewing.”
Presley found Gardner’s delay the result of human error and there was no economic benefit derived from the contravention. He could have fined Gardner as much as $5,000, but opted for a $1,000 penalty.
“It is in the designated filer’s favour that he was honest and forthright with the ORL and sought to immediately correct the error,” Presley wrote.
“The ICBA overlooked its LRA obligations during the succession process. However, this is a large and sophisticated organization that regularly lobbies government. Therefore, they should have been aware of their obligations under the LRA.”
ICBA spokesman Jordan Bateman called it a “pretty simple administrative issue” and said Gardner has paid the fine.
“Chris was unaware that the designated filer information had to be updated,” Bateman told theBreaker.
“Once he was informed by the registrar, he attempted to update it. Unfortunately, all of the details regarding our BCeID log-in and password were lost during that transition, which were needed to change the registration. It took the government agency weeks to allow us to reset that, and we missed the deadline to change the designated filer by a few days.”
Gardner was executive vice-president of the school and construction site portable manufacturer Britco for nine years before joining Clark’s office for a year. He took the job at ICBA after more than a year-and-a-half as senior vice-president with workforce accommodation logistics company Civeo.
ICBA has donated more than $441,000 to the BC Liberals since 2005. Of that, $79,400 came between March 9 and May 5 of this year.
After the BC Liberals lost their majority in the May 9 election, Gardner spearheaded an ICBA campaign supporting BC Hydro’s nearly $9 billion Site C dam, which won’t be completed on time or on budget, if the NDP government decides to continue the project.