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HomeBusinessHorgan’s first post-politics job unethical, says Green leader Furstenau

Horgan’s first post-politics job unethical, says Green leader Furstenau

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Bob Mackin

The leader of the B.C. Green Party plans to table a private member’s bill aimed at closing the “revolving door” after former Premier John Horgan announced he is joining the board of Teck’s steelmaking coal spinoff. 

In a series of Tweets on April 4, Sonia Furstenau said Horgan’s move “weakens people’s trust in our institutions.”

John Horgan (BC Gov/Flickr)

Just 24 hours after an NDP fundraiser in Victoria in Horgan’s honour, and on the day of his retirement as Langford-Juan de Fuca MLA, Horgan revealed in a Globe and Mail interview that he would join the board of Elk Valley Resources. 

“This practice undermines trust in our democracy and institutions. Reform is needed,” Tweeted Furstenau. “It’s time for this revolving door to end, and you can expect the B.C. Green caucus to be introducing legislation to ensure this.”

JoJo Beattie, the caucus spokesperson, said the Greens are not sure about the timeline for tabling such a bill because of their small staff. 

Private member’s bills rarely pass in B.C. and Furstenau conceded the governing party may not call it for debate. “After all, their friends in oil, gas and mining have them on speed dial,” she Tweeted.

In the interview about his career move, Horgan bristled at the suggestion of criticism. 

“I don’t have a lot of time any more, none in fact, for public comment on my world view, or what I am doing with my time,” Horgan said. “I don’t want to be snippy about it, but there are others that are making policy decisions.”

There is a chance that Horgan’s coal gig could get derailed. On Monday, Teck rejected a $22.5 billion takeover bid from Swiss-headquartered Glencore Inc., but Glencore said it is not giving up. 

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, said Horgan’s rapid rise to the corporate world shows just how weak B.C.’s political ethics rules are. 

“Although it is not enforced effectively by the federal Ethics Commissioner, the federal ethics law contains a few rules that all together prohibit the Prime Minister, cabinet ministers, their staff and other top government officials from taking jobs with businesses or organizations when there is an ongoing transaction, legal or regulatory process involving the government, which there is between the company and the B.C. government,” Conacher said. 

“B.C. needs to add these rules to its political ethics law to prohibit politicians cashing in on their so-called public service, and also needs to close loopholes in its lobbying law that allow for secret, unregistered lobbying, and to increase the current two-year prohibition on lobbying by former public officials to five years.”

Just over two years ago, on March 26, 2021, a judge ordered Teck Coal Ltd. to pay a record $60 million after a guilty plea on two counts of violating the Fisheries Act for polluting the Fording River. 

As opposition leader, Horgan was critical of the BC Liberal government when senior Crown corporation appointees left to join government-regulated companies. The most-blatant was when Michael Graydon quit as CEO of B.C. Lottery Corporation to become head of the Paragon Gaming, the company behind development of Parq Casino. Horgan said in Question Period in May 2014 that the government should ensure insiders don’t get special treatment.

Premier Christy Clark (Mackin photo)

“According to the conflict rules for members of government boards, this is what the document says ‘a director should not use his position with the organization to pursue or advance their personal interests.’’ Horgan said. “Seems a reasonable proposition.”

During Horgan’s five years as premier, the NDP government did not close the revolving door. It did amend laws to ban cabinet members and deputy ministers from lobbying the government for two years after they leave their posts. But other junior public employees, who may have worked closer with key decision-makers, are free to become lobbyists right after they quit. 

Examples include Horgan’s former speechwriter Danielle Dalzell, who joined Earnscliffe, former Ministry of Health communications director Jeffrey Ferrier, now with Hill and Knowlton, and Jean-Marc Prevost, who worked in strategic communications for Dr. Bonnie Henry during the first year of the pandemic before his Counsel Public Affairs hiring.

Horgan said he was approached about the Elk Valley Resources position in December. The calendar for his last full month as premier shows he met virtually with Teck executives on Oct. 11. David Eby succeeded Horgan on Nov. 18. 

Teck announced in February that it would split into two companies, Teck Metals Corp. and Elk Valley Resources Ltd., pending approval from shareholders at the April 26 annual general meeting. 

During the last year of his premiership, Horgan’s total pay was $218,587.27. He could receive more on the board of Elk Valley. In 2021, Teck paid each non-executive director $105,000 in a cash retainer and $130,000 in a share-based retainer.

Horgan has a long way to climb the corporate ladder before he matches Glen Clark, the former NDP premier who spent more than 20 years with the Jim Pattison Group. Clark became president in 2011, chief operating officer in 2017 and quietly retired at the end of 2022. He remains on the boards of lumber, pulp and paper producer Canfor and coal exporter Westshore Terminals, companies that count Pattison as their largest shareholder. 

Former BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell is chair of Brit Insurance and director of Laurentian Bank, Bryte Insurance and Equinox Gold Corp. In addition to his Hawksmuir International Partners Ltd. consultancy, he is also listed as counsel on the Gall Legge Grant Zwack law firm’s website.

Campbell’s successor, Christy Clark, became a senior advisor at the Bennett Jones law firm less than a year after quitting as opposition leader. She is also a director with AlaskCan LNG, Shaw Communications, The Keg’s parent Recipe Unlimited and beer, wine, liquor and marijuana company Constellation Brands.

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