Opinion

Christy Clark’s Club: Meet the Lobbyists

Ties to the premier, support for BC Liberals unite elite paid influencers. First in a series.

By Tyee Staff 28 Apr 2017 | TheTyee.ca

This report is part of The Tyee’s reader-funded B.C. 2017 election coverage. To learn more about becoming a Tyee Builder, go here.

As the BC Liberals were poised to claim government in 2001, a key player in Gordon Campbell’s office said the party’s promised lobbyist registry wasn’t really significant.

No one will need a lobbyist once the Liberals were in power, he said. They could just call ministers and ministry managers and arrange meetings.

Sixteen years later, lobbyists wear paths in the carpets in minister’s offices. Businesses, universities, municipalities, Crown corporations, charities — everyone has decided that if you want access and influence, you better pay someone who can get you inside.

And hiring someone who worked with Premier Christy Clark seems to help.

Lobbyists channel donations to the party mostly likely to wield power (sometimes illegally), meet with ministers, work on political campaigns and become MLAs or political advisors. Lines are so blurred between lobbyists, staffers, donors, politicians and operatives as to be nearly invisible.

How critical are lobbyists? The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reported on political donations and lobbying by oil and gas companies and allies. Between April 2010 and October 2016, the 10 most active corporations reported 19,517 planned or actual contacts with people in government. More than 50 meetings, every week, for more than six years.

And B.C.’s lax regulations allow politicians and senior government managers to slide through a “revolving door” as they move from making policy to lobbying. The federal government bars MPs, cabinet ministers and senior managers from lobbying their former colleagues for five years after leaving office.

In B.C., there is no similar ban. Cabinet ministers are free to open up shop as lobbyists the day they leave office, although they can’t push their former colleagues to award a specific contract to a client for two years. Senior managers have a one-year cooling-off period. Political aides face no restrictions.

So former Liberal MLA and cabinet minister John Les was able to start collecting fees for lobbying his former cabinet colleagues six months after leaving government. Sam Oliphant stepped down as Clark’s press secretary on Feb. 26, 2016, and less than a month later was lobbying her on behalf of a health care client.

In 2013, former lobbyist registrar Elizabeth Denham recommended changes to limit the potential for abuses. The BC Liberal government has not acted on them.

There is a long list of former political staff, advisors and politicians who have cashed in as lobbyists. Here are four lobbyists who matter in Clark’s world.

Mark Jiles
Bluestone Consulting

Jiles turned experience as a brewery sales rep and a brief stint lining up sponsors for the Vancouver Grizzlies into a lucrative lobbying career.

Seven months after the BC Liberals were elected in 2001, Jiles joined Patrick Kinsella — who crafted the Liberals’ winning 2001 and 2005 campaigns — in the lobbying firm Progressive Group, while also operating Bluestone Consulting. Jiles also campaigned for the Liberals, managing Gordon Campbell’s 2005 riding campaign.

Kinsella and Jiles boasted of their subsequent access to Liberal cabinet ministers.

The Progressive Group lobbied for Alcan, and the Liberal government cut a deal that was so generous to the corporation that the BC Utilities Commission blocked it. Kinsella and Jiles claimed to have helped Accenture land a $1.5-billion contract with BC Hydro. BC Rail — a Crown corporation — paid Progressive $300,000 to help deal with the new Liberal government. Kwantlen College paid Jiles $177,000 over four years — $44,000 a year — to lobby the government.

It hasn’t always been smooth. Jiles was found to have violated federal lobbying rules in 2011 and provincial lobbying regulations in 2016.

And he was identified by the Globe and Mail in March as one of the lobbyists breaking one of B.C.’s political fundraising rules by donating to the Liberals on behalf of clients. Jiles said the rule-breaking donations were “a mistake.”

Donations are part of the business of lobbying. Jiles has contributed more than $100,000 to the BC Liberals since 2005 — $68,000 since 2011, when Clark became premier.

DONATIONS: $110,920 personally and through Bluestone Consulting, with $1,800 to NDP and rest to BC Liberals.

LOBBYING: Current: Motion Picture Production Industry Association; BC Chiropractic Association; Allied Golf Association of BC; BC Lung Association; Bioteq; Lamar Advertising; BC Salmon Farmers Association; Manufacturing Safety Alliance of BC; New Car Dealers of BC; Society of Notaries Public of BC; Urban Impact. Past: Pacific Western Brewing Co.; Kwantlen Polytechnic University; Central City Brewers and Distillery; Cineplex Entertainment; Copeman Healthcare Centre; Automotive Training Standards Organization; go2HR; FIOSA-MIOSA; Aware 360; North West Organics; MWH Business Solutions; Canadian Association of Bariatric Physicians and Surgeons; Earth Renu Energy Corp.; Envirotest Canada; Canadian Tire Corp.; Impark; Coca-Cola Refreshments Canada; Budget Rent a Car of BC; Exel Logistics; BC Professional Fire Fighters Burn Fund.

KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Patrick Kinsella

Kim Haakstad
Wazuku Advisory Group

Haakstad is a long-time Christy Clark ally who has followed the pattern of moving between government, political roles and lobbying — not always by choice.

The two started working together in the 1990s, when Haakstad was a constituency assistant for Clark. When the Liberals were elected in 2001, Clark, the education minister and deputy premier, hired her as a political assistant. When Clark quit politics in 2004, Haakstad left too, taking a job as B.C. director of the federal Liberal party.

Haakstad soon jumped into the world of lobbying, spending 2007 to 2011 as executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees, British Columbia’s liquor lobby representing bars and private liquor stores. The industry has done well under the BC Liberals — shortly before Haakstad arrived, it persuaded the government to give private stores a bigger discount on liquor purchases, a $25-million boost to industry profits at taxpayers’ expense.

Haakstad kept close ties to Clark, managing her failed campaign to win the NPA mayoral nomination in 2005. (Sam Sullivan, now a Liberal backbencher, won the nomination and the election.)

And when Clark decided to seek the Liberal leadership, Haakstad stepped back into her role as a key aide.

Once Clark was premier, Haakstad was hired as deputy chief of staff. That ended in tears with the 2013 Quick Wins scandal. Haakstad was a key figure in a plan to use government employees and Liberal party staff to come up with ways to get more votes in ethnic communities. A review was sharply critical of her role, especially in advancing the party’s interests while being paid by taxpayers. She resigned.

Haakstad landed with Spectra Energy, a U.S.-based natural gas company with pipelines, storage and hopes of big returns from LNG.

In 2016, Haakstad joined Wazuku as a lobbyist for hire, helping clients make their case to government — including Clark’s senior staff, Haakstad’s former co-workers.

DONATIONS: Personally, $3,725 to the BC Liberals, $2,500 to the NDP plus $425 to the NDP as an officer for Wazuku. Officer for $74,463 in BC Liberal contributions through the private liquor store lobby.

LOBBYING: Current: Canadian Academy of Reporting Arts and Science; Trial Lawyers of BC; Vancouver Airport Authority; Carbon Engineering; Music Canada; Primerica Life Insurance Co. of Canada; Canadian Media Production Association; Blueearth Renewables Inc.; MEG Energy Group. Past: Tilray; Kidney Foundation of Canada; Southern Alberta Institute of Technology; Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Christy Clark, Brad Zubyk, Stephen Kukucha... okay, basically everyone.

Gabe Garfinkel
Garfinkel & Partners Strategies

Garfinkel illustrates two aspects of the lobbying life in British Columbia — the fluid shift between government, lobbying and politics, and the importance of a relationship with Christy Clark.

Garfinkel has almost no private sector experience. He spent less than a year with the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel political action group. He had a stint in Liberal MP Joyce Murray’s office (he was also the secretary of her riding association), and seven months in assistant jobs in two B.C. government ministries.

Then Garfinkel was hired in September 2011 as Clark’s executive assistant. That lasted 18 months and he was promoted to director of community and stakeholder relations in the premier’s office.

On Oct. 25, 2013, he left the premier’s office and took a job as an associate vice-president with FleishmanHillard’s Vancouver office. By Nov. 25, he was registered to lobby the government on behalf of his first client, a renewable energy company. In a short time, large clients — Chevron, big pharma, Port Metro Vancouver — signed on to pay Garfinkel to lobby his former colleagues. In January, Garfinkel reported a list of politicians that he was arranging meetings with for Chevron executives — including Clark.

That too didn’t last long. By November 2015, Garfinkel was gone from FleishmanHillard and working in the family business and running Garfinkel and Partners Strategies on the side.

In February Garfinkel completed the cycle from political staffer in Clark’s office to lobbyist to Liberal candidate in Vancouver-Fairview, where he hopes to recapture the riding New Democrat George Heyman took from the Liberals in 2013.

DONATIONS: $2,728

LOBBYING: (Inactive) Chevron Canada Ltd.; Fortune Minerals; EDF EN Canada Inc.; Multi-Material BC; Port Metro Vancouver; BC Pharmacy Association; Hofmann-La Roche; BC Pharmacy Association; LifeScan Canada; EDF En Canada Inc.; Sunstone Ridge Developments; Information Services Corp.; First West Credit Union; Johnson & Johnson; Adapt Pharma Canada Ltd.; Electronic Products Recycling Association.

Brad Zubyk
Principal, Wazuku Advisory Group

Political consultant Brad Zubyk had made a career of being politically flexible long before he went to work on the leadership campaign of Christy Clark, who he’s known since they both worked in the B.C. legislature in the 1990s.

Many on the NDP side remember him as communications coordinator in Mike Harcourt’s government of the early 1990s. And when MLA Corky Evans twice sought the NDP leadership on platforms aimed at taking the party further to the left, Zubyk was there running his (losing) campaigns.

So Zubyk’s shift to the Liberals, first with the federal party as the communications director for B.C. in the 2008 and 2011 election campaigns, was viewed with dismay by his former NDP allies.

And when he joined efforts aimed at keeping the NDP out of provincial office words like traitor started to get tossed around.

Ahead of the 2009 election, he helped the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association — an organization opposed to both unions and the NDP — with an advertising campaign targeting the NDP.

And in 2013, Wazuku Advisory Group, the firm he founded with two other political consultants, worked on the Concerned Citizens for B.C. campaign organized by former Canfor and Finning CEO Jim Shepard to attack the NDP.

Zubyk has also worked for Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in the 2007 election in Ukraine. It was a much cleaner election than the one three years earlier, Zubyk told The Tyee. That one had seen then prime minister Yanukovych’s chief opponent Viktor Yushchenko banned from television, accused of being a ‘Nazi’ and allegedly poisoned with dioxin. Allegations of electoral fraud led to two weeks of massive street protests, the Orange Revolution, and a re-vote.

Zubyk describes his own politics as centrist and moderate.

DONATIONS: Personally, $8,750 to the BC Liberals, $1,575 to the BC NDP plus $425 to the NDP as an officer for Wazuku. The firm has also given $35,103 to the BC Liberals since 2012.

LOBBYING: Current: Canadian Media Production Association; MEG Energy Corp.; Music Canada; Janssen Inc.; Carbon Engineering; Crumb Rubber Manufacturers Co. LLP; BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS; International Pharmacy Association of British Columbia; Vancouver Airport Authority; Multi Material BC; GlaxoSmithKline Inc. Past: EF Johnson Company, Fraser Surrey Docks; Scientific Games International; Urban Impact; Crumb Rubber Manufacturers Co. LLP; Everything Wine Inc.; Wespac Midstream LLC; Hillside Liquor Store; Ocean Networks Canada, University of Victoria; Enerkem Inc.; GDF Suez Canada Inc.; Guide Outfitters Association of BC; General Electric Canada; Multi Material BC; Santis Health; Interdev Technologies Inc.; Genome BC; Innovative Medicines Canada; Matrix Asset Management Inc.; Canadian Bar Association (BC); BC Maritime Employers Association; Airspray Ltd.; The Kidney Foundation of Canada; Centre for Drug Research and Development; 3L Developments Inc.; Registered Massage Therapists’ Association of BC; Landcor Data Corp.; BWireless Communications Inc.; Connect; Active Network Inc.

KNOWN ASSOCIATES: Jim Shepard, Kim Haakstad, Stephen Kukucha  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Get The Tyee in your inbox

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

Do you agree that Vancouver needs a comprehensive plan for its waterfront?

Take this week's poll