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BC recycling bureaucrat turns lobbyist

A former Ministry of Environment bureaucrat who was instrumental in planning British Columbia's new privatized recycling scheme registered in early May to lobby the government for three clients. 

David Lawes filed with the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists to represent B.C. Used Oil Management Association, Belkorp and Reclay StewardEdge.

Lawes' online resume said he was head of industry product stewardship for the Ministry of Environment for seven years until becoming manager of waste prevention in May 2012, a job he held until the end of 2013. 

The Jan. 9 news release announcing Lawes' hiring as executive director of BCUOMA said that, while in government, he provided oversight to B.C.'s 23 product stewardship programs and "was the statutory decision maker under the B.C. Recycling Regulation." He was also co-chair of the Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment Waste Management Task Group and director of the National Zero Waste Council. 

Lawes' client Belkorp, which operates the Metro Vancouver-contracted Cache Creek landfill, wants a licence to build and operate a $30-million material recovery and recycling facility in Coquitlam. His client Reclay wants government approval to become an alternative to Multi Material B.C., the industry group that took over B.C.'s blue box system in May. The BC Liberal government amended recycling regulations in 2011 to add packaging and printed paper and enable fees to be charged to producers; there is no requirement for retailers to disclose the fees to customers.

A statement from a Ministry of Environment employee who declined to be named in print said the ministry "does not comment on personnel matters," so it wouldn't comment on Lawes' departure from his job. It did say that Lawes was present at a May 7 meeting between Reclay and Environment Minister Mary Polak.

"Prior to the meeting being granted, staff clarified that Mr. Lawes' presence did not constitute a conflict as it was in accordance with post-employment restrictions for senior management in the B.C. Public Service. Mr. Lawes was not a senior executive with the B.C. Public Service. Therefore it was concluded that there was no reason that Mr. Lawes could not attend meeting with the minister," said the statement.

Under public service agency rules, senior management personnel are not allowed to lobby the area of government in which they worked during the year after their government work ended. Elizabeth Denham, B.C.'s lobbyist registrar, recommended in November 2013 that a similar one-year post-employment ban on lobbying by former public office holders be added to the B.C. Lobbyist Act. 

"British Columbia has rules that don't mean much when it comes to lobbying and it is high time for the provincial government to accept the recommendations of Elizabeth Denham on the issue," said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis. "We also have to go further and put the onus on politicians to disclose who is lobbying them."

Lobbyists need only disclose to the lobbyist registry who their intended targets are, not who they actually met.

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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