Government House Leader Peter Van Loan defended Ottawa's decision to open up the wireless industry to more competition amid reports Brian Mulroney lobbied the former industry minister on behalf of a Quebec company that could benefit from the decision.
Mr. Van Loan said the decision to open the market was made based on the best interests of Canadians, "not any representations made by lobbyists."
But Mr. Van Loan referred Opposition questions about Mr. Mulroney's involvement on the file to the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists.
The Conservative government is in the hot seat over a CBC report that Mr. Mulroney played an active role in bringing together former industry minister Maxime Bernier and Pierre Karl Peladeau, CEO of Quebecor Media. Mr. Mulroney is on Quebecor's board.
CBC said during their conversations, Mr. Mulroney reminded Mr. Bernier of Quebecor's strong belief that the government should allow new players into the telecom sector, something CBC says Mr. Bernier was opposed to.
Mr. Bernier later met Mr. Peladeau as well as representatives of other telecom companies.
The former prime minister is not registered as a lobbyist. Under the Lobbyists Registration Act, Mr. Mulroney would be entitled to lobby elected officials in his role as a Quebecor board member, provided he register as required.
A review will be conducted by the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists to determine if an investigation should take place, CBC said.
On Wednesday, Ottawa announced it will set aside nearly 40 per cent of wireless spectrum being auctioned off in 2008 for new entrants and force existing carriers to open their cellphone networks to rivals at commercial rates.
"It is of course incumbent upon lobbyists to ensure that they are properly registered under our new tough accountability provisions," Mr. Van Loan said in Question Period.
However, Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch said the part of the Federal Accountability Act to which Mr. Van Loan referred is not yet in force.
"Those measures are not in place, they're not law yet, they're not anything," Mr. Conacher said.
"They're just sitting there and cabinet may never implement them and hasn't implemented them yet even though 353 days ago Parliament passed the Accountability Act."
Earlier, Mr. Mulroney's chief spokesman in the federal auction of wireless spectrum was brought into question Thursday, after Liberal MP Scott Brison said the government may have violated "the spirit" of an order issued by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
But Industry Minister Jim Prentice denied anything improper had occurred in the lead up to the auction decision announced Wednesday, saying Mr. Brison's veiled accusations were "beneath contempt."
The Liberal industry critic said Luc Lavoie, who often publicly represents Mr. Mulroney and is chief spokesperson for Quebecor Inc., parent company of Quebecor Media, should not have been permitted to contact the government after Nov. 9, when Harper banned his ministers and MPs from communicating with Mr. Mulroney.
Mr. Prentice told The Canadian Press that the issue did not arise because he met Mr. Lavoie only once, on Sept. 27, long before the latest cloud over Mr. Mulroney's dealings with Karlheinz Schreiber forced Mr. Harper to issue the order to his government members.
"I afforded each of the CEOs of the incumbents and the CEOs of the companies that had expressed an interest in the spectrum auction. I afforded each of them 50 minutes to meet with me," Prentice said.
"In that context . . . I met with Mr. Lavoie and Peladeau for approximately 50 minutes to an hour on Sept. 27. I have not since that time talked to Mr. Lavoie or Mr. Peladeau."
Mr. Prentice would not say whether he believes it appropriate for Mr. Lavoie, Quebecor's executive vice-president of corporate affairs, to meet with government members while the inquiry looking into the Mulroney-Schreiber affair has yet to commence.