The Kelowna Liberal MLA that stepped aside so that Premier Christy Clark could win a seat in the Legislature has become a lobbyist for a company proposing two Vancouver Island liquefied natural gas plants.
Clark lost to NDP challenger David Eby in Vancouver-Point Grey the night her party won a surprise victory. Five months after Ben Stewart was re-elected and stepped aside — and Vancouverite Clark won a by-election — Clark rewarded him with a $150,000-a-year post as B.C.’s trade envoy to Asia, based in Beijing.
After three years, Stewart quit last December.
On Feb. 27, he registered as a lobbyist for Steelhead LNG. His registration lasts until April 17, 2018. The registration says Stewart intends to introduce Steelhead’s government relations manager Jack Middleton and business affairs vice-president Ryan Patryluk “for a better understanding of progress to date with first nations to Government’s Chief of Staffs.”
He listed the aides of LNG minister Rich Coleman, aboriginal affairs minister John Rustad and advanced education minister Andrew Wilkinson as target contacts. Rustad is the only minister on Stewart’s target list. Under B.C.’s lobbyist law, actual meetings between lobbyists, politicians and other public officials are not reported.
B.C. senior bureaucrats generally have a one-year, post-employment ban on lobbying the office to which they once worked. No such ban exists for politicians or their aides.
Steelhead is proposing plants in partnership with first nations near Bamfield and Bamberton. Steelhead LNG donated $37,200 to the Liberals between 2014 and 2016.
Stewart’s registration lists the four different cabinet posts he held between 2009 and 2013, but did not mention his job as the Asia trade envoy. The Stewart family owns the Quails’ Gate Winery, which is run by Stewart’s brother Tony.
The cost of Stewart’s post in Beijing came under scrutiny in research by Andrew Johns. He published a February report, based on publicly available documents, that showed taxpayers shelled out $3 million a year for Stewart, the office in Beijing Kerry Plaza and a contract with the Ho Hing Consultancy. Stewart’s assignment included five weeks paid vacation and a medical and benefits plan through Pacific Blue Cross.
Six months after Stewart’s departure, the province hasn’t replaced him.
Stewart did not immediately return theBreaker‘s phone call.