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The lobbying watchdog has concluded that a former Liberal staffer broke the rules by arranging meetings for clients with his former boss Vance Badawey, an MP and parliamentary secretary to a minister.

The lobbyist Dan Lovell arranged for two of his clients to meet with the Niagara MP, and also lobbied him in contravention of the code of conduct, according to a report tabled by lobbying commissioner Nancy Bélanger in Parliament.

It found that Mr. Lovell started communicating with his old boss and his parliamentary office not long after taking his new role as a consultant for Sussex Strategy.

Ms. Bélanger concluded that Mr. Lovell contravened two elements of the 2015 Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct on preferential access. They prevent registered lobbyists from arranging a meeting with an MP – or lobbying them – when they share a relationship that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation.

In a statement, Mr. Lovell said he was aware of the commissioner’s conclusions but insisted he did not breach the lobbying rules.

“I firmly believe that I did not breach the code and conducted myself in accordance with the intent and spirit of the lobbying rules,” he said. “We disagree with the findings and conclusions of the report and are currently looking at all of our options.”

Ms. Bélanger’s report noted that Mr. Lovell worked for Mr. Badawey as an executive assistant for more than four years, and in a key role on two of his re-election campaigns.

Mr. Badawey, Liberal MP for Niagara Centre, was appointed parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services in December, 2021, and in September, 2023, as parliamentary secretary to the Transport Minister. However, Mr. Lovell was employed by him in his capacity as a member of Parliament.

The investigation looked into Mr. Lovell’s lobbying activities on behalf of his clients the Independent First Nations Alliance, the Grain Farmers of Ontario and Welded Tube.

In May, 2022, less than one week after ceasing to be employed by Mr. Badawey, Mr. Lovell registered as a consultant lobbyist for the three clients. Registered lobbyists have an obligation to abide by the standards of the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.

The following month, he e-mailed Mr. Badawey to arrange an “introductory meeting” with the Grain Farmers of Ontario to discuss food security, supply-chain issues and challenges facing grain farmers in Eastern Canada. In a later e-mail, he said a colleague at Sussex Strategies and representatives of the Grain Farmers of Ontario would attend the meeting.

In June, 2022, he e-mailed the parliamentary assistant of Mr. Badawey about setting a time for the MP to tour the site in Welland of another client, Welded Tube. The next day the visit was scheduled for July and Mr. Lovell introduced the parliamentary assistant via e-mail to a representative of Welded Tube so details of the visit could be discussed.

Mr. Lovell told the commissioner he did not attend any meetings with his clients and Mr. Badawey.

The commissioner also found he lobbied his former boss on behalf of the Grain Farmers of Ontario and the Independent First Nations Alliance, in breach of sections of the code of conduct relating to whether a public office holder may feel “a sense of obligation” to a lobbyist.

Ms. Bélanger’s report says that during the four years Mr. Lovell worked for Mr. Badawey, they “shared a close and professional bond which involved frequent and significant interactions.”

She said the MP “relied on Mr. Lovell in his chief-of-staff-like role to provide key strategic and operational support in his parliamentary duties, in managing both his Ottawa and constituency offices, representing him during meetings with stakeholders and assisting with his committee work.”

She said he also managed two successful re-election campaigns for the Liberal MP.

She said that in her view, an objective observer who knew of the “high degree of trust and reliance Mr. Badawey placed in Mr. Lovell” would reasonably conclude that Mr. Lovell and Mr. Badawey “shared a relationship that could reasonably be seen to create a sense of obligation.”

She remarked in the report that his sense of obligation could have been seen to be “particularly acute” at the time Mr. Lovell first started communicating with his former boss the month after he left his employment.

The report says that Mr. Lovell had expressed concern during the investigation that the rules in the code he was deemed to have breached were “vague.”

The code was updated in 2023, and the text of the rules the commissioner deemed he breached are no longer in force. However, the new code has parallel rules.

Mr. Badawey did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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