Time for Clark to prove she calls the shots, not Enbridge

Dogwood Initiative responds to article in the Vancouver Observer regarding Premier Christy Clark's past ties to a firm that once lobbied for Enbridge.

It’s neither fair nor accurate to accuse Premier Clark of being a former Enbridge lobbyist. Rather she became a “partner” at Burrard Communications several weeks after the lobbying firm finished working for Enbridge.

Today, the message from the premier’s office is clear: Clark did not lobby for Enbridge.

Yes, Clark was married to an Enbridge lobbyist, Mark Marissen, who owns the firm she briefly worked for. But she arrived at Burrard only after the departure of John Paul Fraser, who had been handling the Enbridge contract.

John Paul Fraser of Burrard Communications remained in the federal registry as a lobbyist for Enbridge five months after Clark arrived, but Marissen assures me the contract had wrapped up and there was no overlap.

Further, Marissen says “partner” was more of a marketing term, meant to leverage Clark’s experience as a cabinet minister and deputy premier. Clark had no ownership stake in the company, and derived no benefit from the Enbridge contract other than as Marissen’s spouse.

Clark was paid for her work with Burrard Communications in 2006, first when she gave advice to TransLink, and later when she worked briefly with another client whom Marissen declined to identify. The second client’s name is blacked out in a leaked 2006 document posted this week by the Vancouver Observer’s Matthew Millar.

It’s worth noting that Clark joined CKNW as a full-time radio host in 2007, where she worked until December 2010. Had the leaked document originated during that time, it stands to reason she would have been described as the host of The Christy Clark Show, not "a regular guest host on CKNW". Clark, as we know, left the radio station to run for leader of the BC Liberals.

Where is John Paul Fraser now, the former Enbridge lobbyist? He’s an assistant deputy minister, appointed to lead the government’s strategic planning team after helping Clark win her leadership campaign.

Clark also brought in Ken Boessenkool – another former Enbridge lobbyist – as her chief of staff. Boessenkool resigned in September 2012 after allegedly making unwanted advances toward a female staffer at a Victoria pub.

Shake the Etch-A-Sketch and Clark comes up clean. She never lobbied for Enbridge, which is important – because as Premier, she now has the power to approve or reject 60 permits that could determine the fate of the Northern Gateway pipeline.

If the federal government approves the project this spring, Clark needs to stand firm on her government’s formal rejection of Northern Gateway, and hold true to her five conditions – which Enbridge cannot meet.

With the revelation that former federal cabinet ministers Chuck Strahl and Jim Prentice are both working for the pipeline company, it’s reasonable for voters to raise their eyebrows at Clark’s past proximity to Enbridge.

But the premier says those ties are coincidental, and we owe her the benefit of the doubt.

Now the onus is on Clark to prove she serves the people, not the pipeline company.

This opinion piece was written by Dogwood Society's Energy and Democracy Director and was first posted on the group's website.

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