The lobbyist who was once B.C. Premier John Horgan’s right-hand man and the ex-chief of staff to Alberta Premier Rachel Notley was fined $1,000 for failing to report his past as a senior bureaucrat.
Trevor Presley, an investigator with B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, found John Heaney failed to disclose he was a former NDP government insider when he registered on Jan. 5 to lobby the B.C. NDP government on behalf of marijuana company Nuuvera Corp. and Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association.
Presley’s Oct. 10 report was released Nov. 21, after it was tabled in the Legislature.
Heaney had been the deputy minister of government communications in the administration of Premier Ujjal Dosanjh in 2000 and 2001, after working as assistant deputy minister in cabinet planning for less than a year. Heaney also held senior positions under Premier Mike Harcourt.
“At the time he filed his return he believed the term ‘former public office holder’ referred to a former holder of an elected public office,” Presley wrote.
Heaney quickly corrected the error in the 2018 filing, but ORL staff found a previous 2010-2011 registration in which Heaney had not declared he was a former public office holder.
In an April 4 response, Heaney wrote “I believe it bears repeating that this was an inadvertent and hastily corrected error that I could not have possibly benefitted from, financially or otherwise. And it bears underlining that, as was the case in 2010, I was not a practicing lobbyist making my living from that activity or experienced with the registry.”
Heaney unsuccessfully asked the registrar to cease the investigation for being minor or trivial and because it had been more than two years since he filed his first return, which put him beyond the statute of limitations.
“I am troubled by the pattern displayed by the lobbyist of not declaring himself as a former public office holder,” Presley wrote. “However when issuing this penalty, I can only consider the most recent contravention in the context of the British Columbia’s legislation. Therefore I consider a penalty of $1,000 to be appropriate in this instance.”
The report said failure to disclose past work in government undermines transparency and the public’s confidence in the registry. The law, Presley explained, is to address the public’s concern that former public office holders can benefit from insider information and influence.
Heaney quit in August 2017 from Notley’s office, but was quietly hired later that year as an aide in the Alberta finance ministry and later in the energy ministry. He was also under investigation by Alberta’s information and privacy commissioner for meddling in the freedom of information process.
In the report released Nov. 21, another former NDP insider was slapped with a $500 fine.
Like Heaney, Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce president Catherine Holt failed to report her past as a senior bureaucrat in the 1990s.
In a Sept. 18 investigation report by investigator Tim Mots, Holt was found to have misreported her past in 2017 and 2018 filings. Holt immediately corrected the 2018 omission, but was unable to do the same for the 2017 registration because it had already been terminated.
Holt claimed she made an error because she believed the rule to apply only to politicians. Her lawyer unsuccessfully sought leniency.
Mots called it a minor infraction, because of the 19 years that have passed since Holt worked in the provincial government. She was an assistant deputy minister in the premier’s office.
“It is highly unlikely she had undue influence over current public office holders. It is unlikely that she has any remaining insider knowledge,” Mots wrote. “There is no perception here that the in-house lobbyist moved freely between government and lobbying enhancing her influence over the public service.”
Last December, Holt was appointed chair of the B.C. Transit board of directors by the Horgan cabinet. Holt is a former consultant to TransLink who was paid more than $266,000 when her ex-Sage Group business partner Doug Allen, another former B.C. government bureaucrat, was the TransLink CEO.
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