Clark. Haakstad. McDonald. Mentzelopoulos. Millar. White. The power six behind BC's premier.
Who's standing in the shadows behind our premier?
On Friday, The Tyee took a look at how Christy Clark has gone from winning the Liberal leadership to having a higher disapproval rating than her New Democrat competitor Adrian Dix.
Today, following a four-week investigation that included background interviews with sources who've been part of or close witness to Clark's ascent to power, we name the six most influential politicos in the premier's inner circle.
When asked to name the most influential people surrounding the premier, everyone interviewed for this story put her brother Bruce high on their lists. But that's not how Clark sees himself.
"I'm quite surprised by anyone who said that," he said in an interview with The Tyee. "I'm flattered to think I'm influential but I don't think I am -- unless I'm doing all this stuff by the ether and through mind-meld."
Indeed, he also added his reputed role as one of her biggest fundraisers has long been "eclipsed" by a "very strong team of people who do that."
As for his life outside politics, Clark is now in the green power project business via his presidency of a holding company called Broadwing Renewables Inc. But his business career didn't start out that way.
Described by The Province back in 1995 as a "pub entrepreneur," Clark was also the voluntary chair of the Hospitality Industry Group of British Columbia -- an organization that represented the sector's views on smoking bans in pubs, hotels, restaurants, casinos and bingo halls.
Up until the late '90s, he also worked with the Winfield Group, which he described to The Vancouver Sun as distributing and operating "postal and card-vending machines, kiddie rides, anything that's not distasteful that takes a coin."
But he took a step up when Winfield invested in Canada Payphone Corp. and he was named the pay phone provider's president and chief executive officer in November 1998.
Clark's term with the company, whose board of directors included lobbyist and BC Liberal Party éminence grise Patrick Kinsella, ended in 2000.
A few years later, according to the statement of facts filed in court following the conclusion of the Basi-Virk case, he worked as a consultant for Washington Marine Group. But Clark said the truth of the matter is "absolutely not as the statement of facts represents," adding he was "never a consultant for Washington."
But, referring to the statement, he said "there's nothing you can do about those things without spending an inordinate amount of money, which I don't have."
Around the same period, he became involved in founding Green Island Energy Ltd. That's the company that has been working since 2002 to develop a waste-to-energy power project in the Village of Gold River, partnering with Covanta Holding Corp. in 2008.
But, by the time of his sister's swearing-in as premier, Clark had resigned his position as Green Island's vice-president.
As for his other power ventures, Clark said he no longer has any direct interest in proposed projects that "require discretion" on the part of the British Columbia government, rather than just routine regulatory approvals.
"My exit from my British Columbia projects was something that was a priority when Christy made the decision to get back into politics."
He said he exited those projects to guard against any appearance of conflict of interest.
Clark was also formerly the fundraising chair for the Liberal Party of Canada British Columbia, as well as heading up the party's Laurier Club in this province. The club's members must make an annual donation to the Liberals, which presently must total $1,100.
The organization chart for the premier's office makes it appear as if Haakstad, the premier's deputy of staff, operations, reports to the premier's chief of staff Mike McDonald. But Haakstad could arguably be just as influential as McDonald.
Haakstad has long played a key role in Clark's political decision-making, being both a workhorse and body man -- accompanying the premier wherever she goes.
That role dates back to June 2001, when she was named executive assistant and later ministerial assistant to Clark, who was then a cabinet minister and the Campbell administration's deputy premier.
Haakstad left the legislative precincts just three months after her boss announced she was quitting provincial politics, working first as executive director of the Liberal Party of Canada British Columbia and then later as a senior manager with former MLA Karn Manhas's small business, the Karyon Group.
After that, between July 2007 and February 2011, Haakstad was the executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, British Columbia's private liquor lobby.
But through it all, Haakstad has been there to support Clark's political ambitions -- being the campaign director for her failed bid to be the Non-Partisan Association's mayoral candidate and later her aide on the Liberal leadership trail.
Clark's description of McDonald as "one of my oldest friends," as well as the twosome's legendary road trip to recruit BC Liberal candidates for the 1991 election, have been well publicized.
But, according to those interviewed for this story, what's been less well publicized is that McDonald's current central role in Clark's political decision-making appears to be a relatively recent development.
In part, that's because the Georgia Strait separated them for long stretches of their careers. But what changed that is the Vancouver Island resident's involvement with Clark's leadership campaign.
McDonald was named co-chair of that campaign -- and later became its manager and then the premier's chief of staff -- because he was the party insider among a team of comparative outsiders, having been involved with the BC Liberals in a way many of Clark's other longtime supporters hadn't.
That involvement includes working for Clark's predecessor, Gordon Campbell, in 1992, back when he was Vancouver's mayor. McDonald then supported Campbell's successful bid to become leader of the Liberals in 1993, with The Vancouver Sun describing him as a "campaign director."
His support for Campbell ultimately resulted in him being named director of outreach and special projects in the premier's office when the Liberals won government in 2001. But he left that centre of power after just nine months, becoming director of caucus communications before departing the legislative precincts altogether in December 2003.
Nevertheless, the fact he had made a "major contribution" to the Liberals at that time was indisputable, with Campbell also telling the legislature McDonald had "been a mentor; he's been a friend; he's someone who's always been there for us."
McDonald went on to work as a consultant under the name Rosedeer Strategies Inc., partnering with Innovative Research Group Inc. -- the company headed by 1996 Liberal election campaign director Greg Lyle -- to deliver polling services. That partnership deal was struck in 2005, the same year McDonald's then-wife Jessica was appointed the premier's deputy minister.
It was around this period that McDonald became more involved with the private sector, being a member of the team that was looking to -- as the Times Colonist put it -- "transform Ladysmith's polluted harbour from a mess of weeds and industrial garbage into a $300-million sprawling marina, hotel, residential and commercial village."
Coincidentally, according to the paper, one of the now defunct project's principals was John Haibeck, who is married to the premier's outreach director Pamela Martin.
But McDonald continued to have a hand in politics, including working on former Ontario premier Bob Rae's unsuccessful bid for the federal Liberal leadership in 2006 -- putting him at odds with Clark's ex-husband, Mark Marissen, and his candidate Stephane Dion.
It wasn't until last year, though, that he stepped back into the spotlight, providing a familiar face for provincial Liberal members and MLAs nervous about Clark, her bid to succeed Campbell and later occupancy of the premier's office.
It wasn't a surprise when it was announced Mentzelopoulos had joined the premier's office as Clark's deputy minister of corporate priorities. But what was a surprise is that it took until Aug. 15 -- nearly six months after Clark was elected leader of the BC Liberals -- for that appointment to happen.