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Breaking: Chief spy watchdog working for Enbridge since 2011

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Canada’s top spy watchdog and former Conservative cabinet minister Chuck Strahl, who registered last month as a paid lobbyist for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines L.P., has in fact been contracted with the company since 2011, the Vancouver Observer has found.

In an email on Saturday, Strahl said he had done "some contract work for Enbridge" before, but stressed he hasn't arranged any lobbyist meetings yet. The Vancouver Observer has since learned that Strahl has been engaged with Enbridge since before he signed on to become SIRC chair.

“I'm no longer an elected guy, I run a small consulting firm, so I only feel partly accountable to the media for my work or my business,” Strahl told the Vancouver Observer.

Strahl is currently chair of the committee that oversees Canada's spy agency, CSIS.  Following his retirement from federal politics, he was appointed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the position on June 14, 2012. 

Strahl working for Enbridge since 2011

Strahl formed ‘Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc.’ and took on Enbridge as a client, providing the first public relations campaign aimed at swaying public opinion on the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline across British Columbia.

On behalf of his client, Strahl penned and signed an ‘Open Letter: A Choice For British Columbia’ along with fifteen other business and labour leaders. Signatories included former international trade minister David Emerson, Iain Black of Vancouver Board of Trade, the B.C. and Yukon Territory Building and Construction Trades Council, the Business Council of B.C., and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, the country's largest industrial association.

Canada has talked about a “Pacific Gateway” for years: a tantalizing dream to position British Columbia as the leader of a coordinated national effort to leverage our strategic position into jobs, investment and prosperity for many decades to come.Timely completion of natural gas pipeline and liquefaction capacity, as well as pipelines such as Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipelines Project, is essential for our economic future 

-- excerpt from 'Open Letter: A Choice for British Columbia' by Chuck Strahl in 2011

Strahl declared on a December 6, 2013 lobbyist registration that he would lobby B.C.’s Minister of Natural Gas Development, Rich Coleman, to arrange a meeting with representatives from Northern Gateway Pipelines on the subject of “Energy”. He stated that he is lobbying on their behalf until June 2014.

“I'm always happy to comply with any statutory obligations, including publicly registering in case I arrange a meeting or otherwise trigger the provisions of the (Lobbyist Registration) Act,” said Strahl.

“I hope that the BC government is engaging with Enbridge, Kinder Morgan and a dozen or so LNG pipeliners regularly and often. There are many questions that they need to satisfy themselves on, and they will only get answers if they're meeting these proponents." 

"Useless" oversight by ethics commissioner

Critics condemned Strahl for taking on a lobbying position for Enbridge despite heading the nation's main spy watchdog. As SIRC Chair, he has access to virtually all intelligence gathered by the agency, including the surveillance of organizations and individuals opposed to pipelines.  

Due to the sensitive material that SIRC members are required to handle, they are sworn into the Queen's Privy Council, which includes Prime Minister Harper and current cabinet ministers with with whom he regularly interacts.

In an email exchange with the Vancouver Observer on Monday, Dawson's office confirmed that Strahl did contact their office within the last 12 months.

On Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 2:18 PM, Jocelyne Brisebois wrote:

Matt,

Commissioner Dawson can confirm that Mr. Strahl did contact our Office.  Because of confidentiality rules, she cannot comment any further. 

The Commissioner is not available for an interview.

Thank you,

Jocelyne L. Brisebois

 ----------

From: D. Matthew Millar 
Sent: January 6, 2014 2:21 PM
To: Brisebois, Jocelyne
Subject: Re: MEDIA REQUEST:

 

As that was around 2012, please confirm if he communicated with her within the last 12 months?

---------
From: <Jocelyne.Brisebois@cie.parl.gc.ca>
Date: Mon, Jan 6, 2014 at 3:56 PM
Subject: RE: MEDIA REQUEST:

We can confirm that Mr. Strahl has contacted the Office within the last twelve months.  The Conflict of Interest Act prohibits our Office from divulging any information regarding specifics. 

The Office will not comment further.  Thank you.


 

But the ethics commissioner's office refused further comment on Strahl's alleged conflict of interest, saying "the Conflict of Interest Act prohibits our Office from divulging any information regarding specifics." 

“Mary Dawson is negligent and does nothing to enforce the rules,"  Democracy Watch board member Duff Conacher said."The Commissioner of Lobbying isn’t doing a good job either. Both entities are useless.”

In November, the Vancouver Observer found that CSIS and the National Energy Board coordinated with local police and the RCMP to monitor pipeline critics during the Enbridge Northern Gateway Joint Review Panel hearings. 

Conacher called Strahl's lobbying "problematic" given that "CSIS is investigating the people who oppose Enbridge, and that Enbridge has sponsored CSIS". 

“We need a full examination by ethics commissioner Mary Dawson into whether he used any information gained as a member of the Privy Council," said Conacher.  

"There is a definite conflict. The fact that Strahl is on a federal committee and he is interacting with cabinet, all intertwined with a federal government agenda on pipelines, is wrong”. 

"Canadians are deeply concerned"

The Official Opposition released a press release condemning Strahl's double duties as Enbridge lobbyist and watchdog for a federal spy agency that was recently monitoring pipeline opponents. 

“Canadians were already concerned about the federal government using CSIS and the Canada Revenue Agency to target environmental groups and charities. Now we learn the Chair of CSIS’ civilian oversight Committee is a paid pipeline lobbyist,” said NDP MP Nathan Cullen.

“This just further undermines people’s confidence in the fairness of the pipeline approval process.”

(13) Comments

ron January 7th 2014 | 9:09 AM

Nathan Cullen is on point: Chuck Strahl is in conflict of interest,

The Harperites are so arrogant that they don't distinguish between their own self-interest and ideology and their so-called public roles. 

Daisee January 7th 2014 | 10:10 AM

Cullen most certainly does have a point. Remember in Nov. " On Thursday, the man at the centre of the revelation questioned whether the Conservative government had allowed the NSA to operate in Canada to do the kind of domestic espionage Canadian agencies are barred from doing." From - http://metronews.ca/news/canada/869304/tories-stay-mum-on-u-s-spy-role-in-canada/

From the same article - "“CSEC would only break the law if it targeted Canadian persons or asked the NSA to target Canadian persons as a way around Canadian law,” he said." and then - "“It raises the question: If the NSA had approval to engage in surveillance for the G8 and G20, have they also received authorization to spy in Canada for other purposes at other times? It’s an open question at this point,” Parsons said."  Now go to another document - ‘.. issue based extremists pose a more likely threat to summit” that's a screen grab from here - http://o.canada.com/news/canada-helped-u-s-spy-on-g20-summit-in-toronto/

Why is this important? Because there is absolutely no penalty for Lying to Parliament. But guess what? There is a penalty if you call a lie out. So really there is a rule that encourages lying as much as one wants. If you can find House rules that say differently, I'd love to see it. Lying is at an all time high by this gov't right now around an entire array of issues, if you want that to change, say something. Mary Dawson? Perhaps you could clear this up for us.

Earl Richards January 7th 2014 | 2:14 PM

Putting Strahl in charge of the Security Intelligence Review Committee is like putting the fox to guard the hen house. This blatant conflict of interest is an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian people. 

BobA January 7th 2014 | 2:14 PM

Ron, I disagree only to the extent that you imply the arrogant Harperites can't distinguish between their own interests and the public interests.  Of course they can distinguish.  The problem is that they don't care.  Why would they care about the common lowly ordinary citizen?  They have their own interests to be concerned with, and no one else is important.

Daisee January 7th 2014 | 2:14 PM

he has knowledge about the opponents to Enbridge from his paid position as Watchdog for CSIS and as a lobbyist could share that with Enbridge. Absolutely a conflict of interest even if it is just a perception, otherwise we can have no confidence whatsoever in him as WatchDog. He must resign from CSEC.

drakkos137 January 7th 2014 | 2:14 PM

Another day, another story about a Con feathering his nest with taxpayer dollars.

 

Crimes committed while In Office.

 

Corruption.  Treason.  Rampant criminality.

 

Nothing unusual, Harper Government.

Paul Magnus January 7th 2014 | 3:15 PM

what is going on here in this country? The corruption is systemic and starts from the top! Madness... how is this allowed and corrected?

David R Derbowka January 7th 2014 | 3:15 PM

How will I regain my pride in this country? I had hoped fascism or whatever it is, went out with the 2nd world war. I would guess the business world are really not interested in doing business with Canada in an increasing number of fields. Oil is just about an unethical resource as it is a main cause of global warming. Pretending global warming is non-existent at this point in time, is exactly akin to being charged for crimes against the planet. Who will bell the cat?

Paul Magnus January 7th 2014 | 3:15 PM

who do we write to to complain about this?

neanderthal January 7th 2014 | 3:15 PM

But then Canadians are so meek and polite about the stench of it all.

Cathie Reid January 7th 2014 | 7:19 PM

Best thing I ever did to become an informed Canadian was to sign up for Vancouver Observer news stories! I have Ford in Toronto ... and this daily escalation of national political embarrassment with Harper's administration, well, the good thing about this shameful situation is that Canadian's in general are waking up to the flagrant disrespect of ethical standards and conflict of interest. For those of us concerned with the integrity of our democracy, our health and environmental protections as well as food and environmental sustainability - keeping track of the Harper administration's corporate ties and public spending leads to a quick understanding of his "profit" driven, resource-extracting economic vision. The Harper administration will stop at nothing to exploit climate and fresh water denigrating tar sands oil extraction that will benefit the Koch Brothers and other nations more than Canadians (due to secretive trade agreements and investor protection clauses).

So we have Strahl's connection with Harper, Enbridge, and CSIS (and their activities targeting environmental groups). Then, from Matt's Jan. 4th VO article on the story, I note another interesting political shaping - Strahl's former Chief of Staff, Laurie Throness is MLA for Chilliwack-Hope. Isn't Hope where Nestle is extracting our fresh water resources with no government policies in place to protect fresh water? Isn't fresh water the next crisis resource? 

Time to make activist a proud and mainstream label. Everyone should write to their elected officials to voice their concerns and demand accountability for healthy communities. Oh, and Jenni Uechi's Jan. 6th VO article that points out that Harper's press secretary wouldn't allow reporters to question Harper ... just that the media were "invited in to be a witness of the questions and answers" that were carefully scripted and controlled ... PRICELESS!

Henrique Mendoz January 7th 2014 | 10:22 PM

Haper and harperite are so commatous that they neither what they doing nor understand between right or wrong, the truth and lie. 

Craig Hubley January 10th 2014 | 9:21 PM

Haven't used this word yet.  It's time.


Working for a corporation while running a spy agency?  Really?

 

This is beyond intolerable.  It's beyond criminal.  It's an obvious undermining of the state.