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HomeBusinessExclusive: John Horgan’s wordsmith now paid to lobby the NDP government

Exclusive: John Horgan’s wordsmith now paid to lobby the NDP government

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Bob Mackin

The last phase of the B.C. NDP government’s lobbying reforms happened May 4 when a new website launched for monthly returns and disclosures of gifts and political donations from those who are paid to influence government decisions.

But, when it passed the new laws in 2018, the NDP left a loophole the size of a BC Ferry.

Premier John Horgan (left) and Danielle Dalzell, ex-government staffer turned lobbyist, at a 2019 Hallowe’en party. (Dalzell/LinkedIn)

Public office holders are banned for two years from lobbying after they leave government, but what is a public office holder?

The answer is not so simple.

A former public office holder includes:

  • former member of cabinet;
  • former parliamentary secretary;
  • former deputy minister or assistant deputy minister;
  • former officer, director or employee of a Crown corporation;
  • and anyone, other than administrative support staff, formerly employed in a current or former cabinet member’s office.

As theBreaker.news found out, the law does not include an NDP insider who worked hand-in-hand with the Office of the Premier on a daily basis to help John Horgan and his cabinet communicate to more than 5 million British Columbians.

“The law is still a sad joke and no one should be fooled,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch, in an interview. “They are clearly in favour of secret, unethical lobbying.”

In April, Danielle Dalzell joined the Earnscliffe Strategy Group and registered to lobby the B.C. NDP government on behalf of B.C. Fruit Growers Association and the B.C. SPCA. On May 4, she registered on behalf of a third client, Armstrong Fluid Technology.

Dalzell started at the lobbying firm just four months after leaving her post at Government Communications and Public Engagement (GCPE), where she was paid $100,859 a year to be the director of strategic communications and leader of a team of writers producing daily content for Horgan — including his speeches.

Dalzell’s partner is Rick Devereux, another NDP loyalist who works in GCPE as executive director of events and planning.

Dalzell boasts on her bio that she was responsible for the communications rollout of major government announcements. While she was clearly a public employee, on the taxpayer payroll, she was not a public office holder, as defined by the NDP’s new lobbying law.

A director at the GCPE does not meet the test to be considered a ‘former public office holder’,” Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists spokeswoman Michelle Mitchell told theBreaker.news.

Dalzell had previously spent seven years as senior writer for the NDP caucus in Ottawa after three years as public events coordinator for Carole James when today’s finance minister was the opposition leader from 2007 to 2010. Dalzell also worked on the B.C. NDP’s 2017 campaign communications team before scoring her government job.

Dalzell did not respond to requests for comment.

Conacher said the NDP continues to deliberately allow party insiders to travel with ease between government jobs and lobbying, after criticizing the BC Liberals for doing so while they were in government.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher

“I’ve never bought the argument that you won’t get good staff if you have these cooling-off periods, because what you want are people who are dedicated to the public interest, not someone who is in there just to get some inside access and contacts and go out and sell it to the highest bidder,” Conacher said. “That’s not the kind of person you want in government, that’s not a good staff person.”

The NDP reforms were supposed to close the lucrative revolving door that profited two aides close to former Premier Christy Clark.

In October 2013, Gabe Garfinkel left his position in Clark’s office to join FleishmanHillard. In February 2016, press secretary Samuel Oliphant quit to join Kirk and Co. Oliphant made a brief comeback in June 2017 with Clark’s office when he was paid more than $7,400 to write the ill-fated throne speech.

Dana Hayden was the BC Liberal-appointed chair of PartnershipsBC when she registered in early 2016 for developer Westbank Projects to lobby B.C. Pavilion Corporation, where she had formerly been CEO. Hayden was fined $800 by the ORL for not disclosing her past as a deputy minister in government.

“Despite all their complaining about the BC Liberals in the past, the B.C. NDP are quite content with — and even encourage — secret, unethical lobbying, because they’ve left open secret lobbying loopholes and they’ve left open unethical lobbying loopholes,” Conacher said.

A request for comment from the office of Attorney General David Eby was not answered.

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