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Lobbyists registry lacks record for BC Liberal Party vice president

The Nov. 7 Globe and Mail quotes the vice-president of the British Columbia Liberal Party, former MLA Bill Belsey, saying he is a lobbyist registered with the province, but that claim appears to be untrue.

Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Pat Bell had emailed internal government correspondence to Belsey, who works for Sun Wave Forest Products and other companies belonging to Chinese business person Ni Ritao.

"We talk about all kinds of things," the Globe and Mail article quoted Belsey saying to explain it was normal for Bell to email him. "I do lobbying. I'm a registered lobbyist with the province. Pat and I went into government together. We shared a passion for forestry issues."

Belsey's name did not, however, appear in The Tyee's search of the province's registry of lobbyists. Nor does Sun Wave's name appear.

The deputy registrar of lobbyists, Mary Carlson, also checked. "There's nothing under his name," she said. "The registry is not producing any report showing his registration either as a consultant lobbyist or an in-house lobbyist."

B.C. law requires the registration of consultant lobbyists who are paid to do things like arrange meetings for clients. In-house lobbyists working for companies that have people spending at least 100 hours a year on lobbying are also required to register.

Carlson said the next step would be for the registry manager to contact Belsey to inquire about his quoted comments and whether he should be registered.

Records released to the Globe through a freedom of information request and also provided to The Tyee by Bell's ministry include a Dec. 12, 2011 email from Belsey to Bell requesting a meeting for Ni. Bell responded, "Sorry Bill, on holidays so no able too [sic]."

Parts of the record were censored under sections of the FOI law that allows public bodies to withhold policy advice, recommendations or draft regulations and information that would be harmful to personal privacy. The Globe and Mail story said the version Bell sent to Belsey was not similarly redacted. *

Belsey did not respond to messages sent to his email addresses and through the BC Liberal Party.

A ministry statement defended Bell's email to Belsey, who it describes as "the representative of Mr. Ni." Bell had received an overview from ministry staff about Chinese media reports regarding Ni.

"In sending the email to Mr. Belsey, Minister Bell was seeking additional perspective on the foreign-language media reports," it said. "Minister Bell’s job is to know as much as possible about international investment and investors – based on information he receives from ministry staff, and additional perspective from outside sources."

The email also included details about a planned ministry meeting regarding Ni and Sun Wave, but the ministry's statement said the meeting was already well known in Prince Rupert, where the company and the city were in a dispute about its shuttered Skeena Cellulose Pulp Mill.

* Paragraph added, 5:26 p.m. on Nov. 7.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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