Harper government pressed to investigate Strahl scandal

Formal complaints demand an investigation into Strahl's dual role as spy watchdog and Enbridge lobbyist. The NDP is also demanding a review of SIRC and the immediate reinstatement of the CSIS Inspector General, a position dismantled by the Harper administration in 2012.

The Harper government has received a formal complaint from the official opposition today, demanding an investigation into the activities of Chuck Strahl, chair of the watchdog committee that oversees the activities of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). The NDP has also demanded the immediate reinstatement of the CSIS Inspector General -- a position government dismantled in 2012 -- in the wake of revelations that Strahl has been lobbying on behalf of Enbridge Northern Gateway Project.

“It is alarming to many Canadians that the Chair of the CSIS oversight committee is engaged in this kind of lobbying,” NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen said. “The government must take quick action to show that our national spy agency is properly monitored – and restore Canadians’ faith in the impartiality of civilian oversight.”

Liberal MP Joyce Murray has also filed a complaint to Mary Dawson, Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.
Strahl was found to have registered as a provincial lobbyist in December 2013 for Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines and a joint First Nations-Chinese tar sands development while serving as Canada's spy watchdog. The registrations happened after the federal government abolished the CSIS Inspector General position in its omnibus budget bill, a move that critics warned at the time would "open the door to abuses of power".  
"The head of the SIRC is trusted with sensitive information, not only regarding the safety of Canadians, but relating to private projects such as the Northern Gateway Pipeline. This clear conflict of interest involving the head of the SIRC has a direct effect on the performance of his duties and functions. His lobbying on behalf of Enbridge is cause for concern and must be reviewed,"  wrote  NDP MP Randall Garrison to Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney, whose ministerial portfolio includes CSIS.

The letter raises concerns over the performance of Strahl's duties as Chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee and requests that Minister Blaney investigate the activities of the chair and members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee under section 54 (2) of the Canadian Security Intelligence Act.

"Canadians are concerned that Mr. Strahl, a former senior Conservative Minister handpicked to replace disgraced previous Conservative-appointed SIRC Chair Arthur Porter, is now lobbying for a pipeline seeking federal government approval while being compensated by the federal government," said Garrison, who also suggested that lobbying any level of government is incompatible with the role of an oversight body related to national security.

"This latest controversy comes on the heels of earlier reports of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) caught spying on behalf of natural resource companies – spying on Canadians opposed to the pipeline that Mr. Strahl is paid to lobby for," writes Garrison. "This apparent conflict of interest serves to further undermine Canadians’ confidence in the fairness of the pipeline approval process, the activities of the SIRC Chair in his capacity as lobbyist for Enbridge Northern Gateway and the impartiality of the Review Committee".

 In a formal complaint to Dawson about Strahl, Liberal MP Joyce Murray said: "The fact that Mr. Strahl holds this federally appointed position chairing the review and oversight body for a government agency, CSIS, in our view makes him subject to federal Conflict of Interest and Ethics Guidelines. We respectfully request that you conduct a review of Mr. Strahl’s activities and provide a ruling on whether these lobbying activities are acceptable".

"We are particularly concerned about his relationship with Enbridge since it has been recently alleged that CSIS engaged in surveillance activities on British Columbian Aboriginal leaders and environmental groups who have voiced opposition to Enbridge’s NGP application," said Murray.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair earlier called on Strahl to step down as SIRC Chair, or to end the Enbridge lobbying: "Strahl can’t have it both ways.  What’s compromised is the public interest".
Strahl was contacted for comment on this article but did not respond.

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