Canada’s top spy watchdog lobbying for Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline
However, documents published by The Vancouver Observer in November 2013 revealed the extent to which the Harper government, CSIS and the RCMP monitored activists and organizations who opposed the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project. At the same time, CSIS and the RCMP were cooperating with the private sector by holding ‘Classified Briefings for Energy and Utilities Sector Stakeholders’ at CSIS's headquarters in Ottawa.
The May 23, 2013 ‘classified briefing’ was sponsored by Enbridge and brought together federal agencies, spies, and private industry stakeholders with high level security clearances – which included officials from energy companies in the oil, natural gas, pipeline, petroleum refinery and electricity sectors.
Strahl’s registration for lobbying activities on behalf of Enbridge raise questions about conflicts-of-interest and ethics, lobbying legislation and also the collusion of private interests within Canada’s security apparatus.
“What Stephen Harper has essentially done is to take the spy agencies of the federal government of Canada and put them at the service of private companies like Enbridge,” said Green Party Leader Elizabeth May in November.
Strahl is listed as Consultant with ‘Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc.’ since 2011 and his duties are to “develop and provide communications, strategic and government relations advice to corporations, governments and NGOs”.
As a former minister, Strahl is a ‘Designated Public Office Holder’ under the federal Lobbying Act and is prohibited from lobbying the Government of Canada for a five year period post-employment. He is also required to declare his prior status as an MP in the lobbyist registry.
Strahl did not declare in his B.C. registration that he held federal public office from 1993 to 2011, as the provincial Lobbyists Registration Act only applies to previous officers of the B.C. government. He is not restricted from lobbying the province of British Columbia on behalf of Enbridge or other interests.
Strahl previously stated that he “won’t lobby” governments and has never done so, according to a story by Brian Hutchinson in the National Post following Strahl's appointment to the Security Intelligence Review Committee in 2012.
However, a B.C. lobbying registration from December 2011 states: “Charles Strahl, a consultant lobbyist with Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc, is arranging meetings on behalf of his client, Cascade Aerospace Inc, with the Minister of Jobs, Tourism, and Innovation (and/or his staff)”.
In the same interview, he said that he “has a system of ‘double make-sure’ to protect himself and the public from conflicts of interest and questions around ethics”. In the event a problem does arise he said that he would “call up ethics commissioner (Mary Dawson) and consult her”, also stating that he spoke with her when he was offered the SIRC appointment.
Strahl’s son, Mark, is currently the Member of Parliament for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.
Strahl also maintains close ties to the current B.C. government.
His former federal Chief of Staff, Laurie Throness was newly elected as MLA for Chilliwack-Hope in the 2013 provincial election.
In financial disclosures published last month, Throness declared income from consulting fees for Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc. Throness is a member of the provincial cabinet under Premier Christy Clark and serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Corrections.
In 2013, Strahl was publicly thanked by Christy Clark for his assistance in helping during her provincial election campaign. At a media event, Clark said that Strahl is an example of a retired federal politician who is "very actively helping us on this campaign and I'm really proud of the contribution (he's) making”.
The acknowledgement raised immediate questions given his position as SIRC chair, with Clark clarifying her statement on the record the following day to protect his necessarily impartial relationships as Canada’s top spy watchdog.