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TD Chair never registered as lobbyist, denies lobbying

The deputy chairman of the Toronto-Dominion Bank Financial Group, Frank McKenna, was reportedly instrumental in persuading British Columbia to replace its financial institutions capital tax with a minimum tax.

But neither McKenna, who is a former Liberal New Brunswick premier, nor the TD Bank appear in B.C.'s lobbyist registry.

“I've checked with Mr. McKenna's office and can confirm that he has not lobbied the B.C. government as referenced in your article,” said Stephen Hewitt, a spokesperson for TD Bank, in an e-mail.

The denial, however, comes four months after the May 13 Globe and Mail article, cited in yesterday's Tyee piece by Will McMartin, on the growing clout of TD Bank that noted McKenna “was instrumental in helping persuade British Columbia” to repeal the corporation capital tax.

Hewitt did not respond by posting time to an e-mail asking what steps McKenna or TD took to correct the Globe article.

B.C.'s Attorney General Mike de Jong said he had not seen the related stories, but said it's unlikely there would be such a direct link between a single lobbyist and a government policy.

“Public policy isn't developed on the basis of submissions from any one individual or group,” he said. “The government examines a range of views, looks at the fiscal situation, looks at the direction we're trying to move in, looks at commitments that have been made.”

The New Democratic Party's attorney general critic, Leonard Krog, said it has long been clear the laws governing lobbyists need to be fixed.

“This is another shocking example of why the Lobbyists Registration Act is nothing more than a pathetic political joke in the province of British Columbia,” he said. “Lobbying continues without people registering. We know government policy is affected by people lobbying.”

In February 2008, then finance minister Carole Taylor presented a budget that promised to phase out B.C.'s capital tax on financial institutions by 2010. Two weeks ago the TD Bank announced Taylor, who quit provincial politics last year, would be joining its board of directors.

“It gives a bad appearance,” said Krog. “Whether in fact or not there is something that is truly wrong there is another question, but it's a lousy appearance.”

Taylor was unavailable for an interview.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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