Weisgerber's Lucrative Move from BC Hydro Director to Consultant

Praised by premier for Site C dam help, former Socred leader from Peace River billed $206,743 last year.

By Andrew MacLeod 22 Apr 2010 |

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

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Praised by premier for Site C dam help, former Socred leader from Peace River billed $206,743 in 2009.

During his speech announcing that the government is moving to the next stage on the Site C hydroelectric project on the Peace River, British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell acknowledged the contributions of Jack Weisgerber.

John Sylvester Weisgerber, better known as Jack, is a former Social Credit and Reform Party of B.C. leader who represented Peace River South from 1986 to 2001. A Vancouver Province story this week identified him as a B.C. Hydro consultant, as well as a former aboriginal affairs minister and former member of the B.C. Treaty Commission.

The Province story failed to mention that Weisgerber is also a former director of B.C. Hydro, appointed by the provincial cabinet in September 2001, a few months after Campbell was first elected premier.

And as it turns out, Weisgerber's move in 2007 from director to consultant appears to have made better financial sense for him than it did for the Crown corporation.

In Weisgerber's last full fiscal year as a B.C. Hydro director, the one that ended March 31, 2007, the Crown corporation paid him $37,125, plus $8,008 in expenses, according to the agency's Financial Information Act report.

The report for the year that ended March 31, 2009, the most recent available, says Weisgerber Consulting Inc. was paid $206,743 during the year.

Multiplying the money

Put another way, Weisgerber Consulting Inc. earned more than five times as much consulting to B.C. Hydro than Weisgerber did each year as a director.

"The numbers are staggering," said John Horgan, the New Democratic Party's energy, mines and petroleum resources critic. "[Acting B.C. Hydro CEO] Bev Van Ruyven should have a good explanation why a former politician is providing that service."

Horgan acknowleged that Weisgerber's experience on the Treaty Commission and as an MLA in the region where the Site C dam is planned might be useful to the Crown corporation, but still questioned the arrangement. "It's still grotesque that he could have ingratiated himself to senior Hydro executives as their boss on the board, then moved on to bigger cheques on the procurement side."

Weisgerber did not return The Tyee's calls by publishing time. Nor did a B.C. Hydro spokesperson.

Documents filed with B.C.'s corporate registry show that Weisgerber Consulting Inc. was registered on Dec. 17, 2007. The company, based in Nanaimo, has two directors: John Sylvester Webster and Judith Muriel Weisgerber.

In the year that ended March 31, 2008, Weisgerber was paid $27,750 plus $8,642 for expenses for his work as a director, while the consulting company received $59,103.

Codes and conflicts

B.C. Hydro has a code of conduct for its employees and directors, but the code is silent on what people can or can't do once they leave the Crown corporation. Cabinet ministers, in contrast, are prohibited under the Members' Conflict of Interest Act from accepting a contract to work for the government or one of its agencies until 24 months after they've left their position.

There's nothing to prevent Weisgerber from leaving B.C. Hydro as a director and immediately working for it as a consultant, but there should be, said the NDP's Horgan.

Amendments to the conflict of interest act he brought forward in 2008, that never made it past first reading, would have extended provisions like those for cabinet ministers to ministerial staff and government appointees. They would have prevented Weisgerber from moving from B.C. Hydro director to B.C. Hydro consultant, he said.

So would amendments to the same act brought forward this week by NDP leader Carole James, he said.

"British Columbians expect politicians and their appointees to conduct themselves by the highest ethical standard and to discharge their duties in the public interest," James said in the legislature according to the transcript from April 20. "But far too often ordinary citizens feel that the public interest is crowded out by private interests. That perception has a corrosive effect on public confidence, undermining people's faith that the decisions made in this chamber or at a cabinet table result from no other consideration than what's best for British Columbia."

She noted the NDP had brought forward similar legislation in the past. "Given recent events, it seems timely to introduce it again in hopes the government will finally take action to toughen up conflict-of-interest laws."  [Tyee]

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