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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: Bonnie Henry’s wordsmith quit to become lobbyist for AstraZeneca jab maker

COVID Exclusive: Bonnie Henry’s wordsmith quit to become lobbyist for AstraZeneca jab maker

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Bob Mackin

The veteran NDP operative who put words in Dr. Bonnie Henry’s mouth has left his job and is now registered to lobby the British Columbia government for a company that makes AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines.

Jean-Marc Prevost registered to lobby for a U.S.-headquartered vaccine maker (Counsel/Emergent)

Jean-Marc Prevost was the strategic communications director for the Ministry of Health, working full-time on Henry’s day-to-day messaging. He wrote the script for Henry’s controversial back-to-school TV ad last summer and received a photo credit in her March-published book. Prevost worked in tandem with Henry’s communications contractor Nicola Lambrechts.

Prevost left the job, which paid $77,330 in 2019-2020, to join former NDP campaign manager Brad Lavigne’s Counsel Public Affairs as a vice-president for Western Canada. The company’s website mentions Henry praised Prevost in her book, for his “powerful ways with words.”

Prevost registered for seven clients between May 11 and 13, including the Canadian division of Emergent BioSolutions.

Emergent shipped 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada from its Baltimore factory, which was investigated by the Food and Drug Administration after a case of contamination.

Prevost’s May 12 registration says the topic of his lobbying is to increase access in B.C. to Emergent’s Narcan nasal spray product, which is an emergency remedy for opioid overdoses. The Ministry of Health and Fraser Health are among the public bodies Prevost is targeting.

Dr. Bonnie Henry’s Back to School campaign (BC Gov)

Under the NDP’s 2018 lobbying reforms, deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers are banned from lobbying for two years after leaving the government. But not so for a communications director, like Prevost.

A lobbying watchdog called Prevost’s career move a conflict of interest nonetheless.

“It’s always unethical for someone to be leaving government in a significant position and starting to lobby right away, especially if they’re lobbying in the same area that they worked in government,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of DemocracyWatch. “There should be a cooling-off period for everyone, on a sliding scale, based on your connections in government, your relations in government, the access to information you had.”

Neither Health Minister Adrian Dix nor Prevost responded to interview requests from theBreaker.news.

Before working in the B.C. NDP government, Prevost worked for NDP governments in Alberta and Manitoba. His other lobbying clients with Counsel are the B.C. Real Estate Association, Insurance Council of B.C., Toyota Canada, Encorp Pacific, Hello Fresh Canada, and North York Rehabilitation Centre Corp.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher

Conacher said there should be a cooling-off period for Prevost that should last until this government, and the officials he worked with, are out of office.

“When would the conflict of interest ever disappear otherwise?” Conacher said. “He has the relationships with them, he has the inside access and knowledge.”

Prevost is not the first NDP operative to leave a senior communications job in the B.C. government and walk through the loophole into an NDP-friendly lobbying firm. In May 2020, theBreaker.news revealed that Premier John Horgan’s speechwriter, Danielle Dalzell, had quit to join the Earnscliffe lobbying company.

After last fall’s snap election, Horgan rewarded Raj Sihota, the executive director of the B.C. NDP, with a $15,000 no-bid contract to work on his transition team. In January, Sihota joined NDP-aligned lobbying firm Strategies360 and has since registered to lobby the NDP government on behalf of five clients.

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