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HomeMiscellanyNDP lollygagging leads to lobbying loophole

NDP lollygagging leads to lobbying loophole

Bob Mackin

A deputy minister in the Christy Clark BC Liberal administration, who left the government with a $387,359 severance last July, has registered to lobby the NDP transport minister for a group representing non-union construction companies.

It is perfectly legal, for now.

Tim McEwan joined the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C. last September as senior vice-president of policy and stakeholder engagement. He registered Jan. 22 as one of three ICBA lobbyists. 

Ex-Deputy Minister Tim McEwan (LinkedIn)

At the end of November, the NDP government amended the Lobbyists’ Registration Act to ban former public office holders from lobbying for two years after departing government. That would have prevented McEwan from registering. However, the cooling-off period clause isn’t effective until Premier John Horgan’s cabinet says so. 

Liam Butler, a spokesman for Attorney General David Eby, said the amendments will “come into force by regulation, anticipated in spring 2018.” 

Even then, McEwan could be allowed to continue. 

“Once the amendments are in force, former public office holders that are captured in the two-year period will need to terminate their registration and apply for an exemption with the [Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists],” said Michelle Mitchell, spokeswoman for the registry. “They will be required to cease lobbying immediately.”

McEwan had three stints in the B.C. government, most recently five years under Clark. He was assistant deputy minister in the major investments office for three-and-a half years and then spent two years as deputy minister of small business, red tape reduction and liquor distribution.

Dermod Travis of government watchdog IntegrityBC said McEwan would have potentially better access to information than others, putting his employer in an unfair advantage. Travis said the NDP footdragging means it is not fulfilling lofty democratic reform promises it made while in opposition. 

“I suspect the public thought the NDP was going to represent more of a change than how the previous government operated, and less of government operating behind closed doors with party pals,” Travis said. “What we’re beginning to see is something like a line change in an NHL game.” 

Ex-NDP corporate fundraiser Rob Nagai with John Horgan. (Twitter)

Travis said B.C. ultimately needs the same type of transparency in lobbying as exists in Washington, D.C., where lobbyists are required to make public financial disclosures. 

McEwan listed his lobbying target as Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claire Trevena, intending to discuss “project labour agreements.” Trevena’s ministry is reviewing TransLink’s business case for capital funding to build a new Pattullo Bridge, Broadway Subway and Surrey light rail transit. The megaprojects were estimated at $5.1 billion, combined, in 2014. The Mayors’ Council received a secret update on the skyrocketing costs in 2016, theBreaker exclusively reported.  

The ORL fined ICBA president Chris Gardner $1,000 last year for failing to update the organization’s registration. 

The $7 million guy 

Meanwhile, the B.C. NDP’s major gifts fundraiser, Rob Nagai, left the party in December after corporate and union donations to parties were banned. He joined BC Liberal lobbyist Mark Jiles’s Bluestone Group in January and has registered to lobby for six clients: Motion Picture Industry Association, Society of Notaries Public of B.C., Vitalus Nutrition, New Car Dealers of B.C., B.C. Salmon Farmers Association and B.C. Chiropractic Association. 

Nagai’s partner on the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association account is former BC Liberal cabinet minister Don McRae. McRae sat as a back-bencher during his last two years in office and would not be subject to the two-year lobbying ban because MLAs are exempt. 

Nagai boasted raising more than $7 million over seven years as the NDP’s corporate fundraiser. Jiles, a former business partner of BC Liberal powerbroker Patrick Kinsella, was the subject of an early 2017 Globe and Mail report about indirect donations by lobbyists to the BC Liberals. An RCMP investigation and appointment of special prosecutor David Butcher ensued.

Despite his rapid registrations, Nagai pales in comparison to NDP insider Bill Tieleman, who also appears as a pundit on CBC and is co-ordinating a multiparty campaign to defeat the proportional representation referendum. 

Tieleman registered his 17th client on Jan. 22, the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade-backed Better Transit and Transportation Coalition that is lobbying for the TransLink megaprojects.

NDP lobbyist Bill Tieleman and ex-BC Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton (Twitter)

His other 16 active clients are: B.C. Insulation Contractors Association, B.C. Naturopathic Association, Crumb Rubber Manufacturers Association of Canada Processing, Canadian Football League Players’ Association, Construction and Specialized Workers’ Union Local 1611, International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Asbestos Workers Local 118, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Canada, International Union of Operating Engineers Locals 115 and 963, Ironworkers Union Shop Local 712, Landcor Data Corp., Unifor Locals 111, 333 and 2200, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, and Vancouver Native Housing Society. 

Several of Tieleman’s industrial union clients succeeded in convincing Horgan to carry-on with the Site C dam, now estimated at $10.7 billion. Tieleman joined ex-BC Liberal Attorney General Suzanne Anton and former longtime bureaucrat Bob Plecas in the anti-proportional representation campaign. 

“Sometimes three different types of hats — which is what he is currently wearing — is going to inevitably lead you into a conflict and that conflict will not look good on government,” Travis said. “It won’t look good on democratic institutions in B.C., and it raises concerns over the transparency and legitimacy of the upcoming referendum.” 

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