136 former B.C. government officials now work as lobbyists
New database shows 12 fossil fuel companies employ ex-ministers, staff
It’s called the “revolving door” and it’s been a problem in B.C. for years, with corporations hiring former cabinet ministers and senior bureaucrats as lobbyists.
These government insiders go back to the same offices where they used to work, only now they’re paid to influence policy decisions in favour of industry. Thanks to a new database, this back-and-forth is now easier to track and quantify.
Earlier this month the Investigative Journalism Foundation published their “Revolving Door” database, allowing the public to check which companies employ former government employees and elected officials.
Combing through the database, the IJF found that in B.C. “at least 136 people who formerly held office in the provincial government have traded in their public service careers to become paid lobbyists — positioning themselves to use their insider knowledge, and perhaps connections, to influence the government on behalf of private industry, organizations and special interests.”
In the middle of a climate emergency, and as B.C. is set to miss its emission reduction target for 2025 and 2030, the question of insider lobbyists advancing corporate interests has never been more timely.
Dogwood previously reported how oil and gas lobbyists targeted the B.C. government 1,032 times in just nine months last year. Searching through the IJF database, Dogwood found at least 12 energy companies whose current lobbyists include former government officials.
FortisBC, which sent Delta residents scrambling for safety after a pungent leak at a gas plant last week, employs lobbyists Jordan Bell and Gurpreet Vinning, both former staffers in multiple B.C. ministries.
Woodfibre LNG, which aims to export two million tons a year of fossil gas from a terminal near Squamish, can count on Moe Sihota, a former cabinet minister and NDP insider. Sihota also has a regular spot on the CBC Early Edition political panel.
TC Energy, now working on plans for the Prince Rupert Gas Transmission pipeline, employs Kiel Giddens, a former chief of staff for the minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation (as it was called before a rebrand).
Tourmaline Oil Corp, Canada’s biggest fracking company, retains the services of Bradley Lavigne, former Chief of Staff to the Minister of Finance, and Michael Gardiner, a former BC NDP executive director and B.C. ministerial assistant.
Tourmaline and TC Energy are currently twisting the government’s arm to approve the Ksi Lisims LNG proposal in Nisga’a territory. The massive terminal, which is opposed by neighbouring First Nations, would put B.C.’s climate targets firmly out of reach.
What else can you find in the “Revolving Door” database?
While the IJF project offers a new tool for the public to scrutinize oil and gas lobbying, it can’t be a replacement for much-needed reforms to lobbying in B.C. Payments to lobbyists should be disclosed, and a cooling-off period should be mandated for all former public officials to prevent them from immediately working for powerful oil and gas corporations.