MP Mark Strahl backpedals on Enbridge connections

Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon MP Mark Strahl

“Is it a concern that I am related to Parliamentary secretary Mark Strahl?” wrote Chuck Strahl, Mark's father, in a January 7 email to federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson. 

Mark Strahl is the Member of Parliament for Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon – a seat formerly held by his father until 2011 – and serves as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

“Would you propose any measures to ensure that conflict of interest with my son Mark is minimized or eliminated?” he asked.

Chuck Strahl, who was Canada's top spy watchdog at the time, was dealing with conflict of interest allegations because he had registered as a lobbyist with Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipelines.  Enbridge maintains close working relationships with CSIS and the RCMP. 

Dawson cautioned Strahl, that “with respect to your obligations, you must not exercise an official power, duty or function of your public office that would provide you with an opportunity to further the private interests of a relative”. 

Within weeks of leaving government in May 2011, ‘Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc.’ was incorporated - and the company almost immediately engaged in contracts with Enbridge.  

"Mr. Strahl admits Enbridge is a client of his newly formed public relations firm, but added that he has been a long-time supporter of pipeline projects as a way to diversify the Canadian economy. He set up a public relations consulting business after he left politics last spring to begin drawing his MP pension," wrote Stockwatch in October of 2011.  An Enbridge spokesperson confirmed that Strahl has done work for the company since 2011.

All in the family

Records from the federal lobbyist registry show that MP Mark Strahl was formally lobbied by Enbridge three times from November 2011 to November 2012.

Screenshot from federal lobbyist registry. Enbridge also met Mark Strahl on November 27 , 2012 and November 30, 2011. 

Enbridge engaged in communications with Mark Strahl and fellow MPs on matters related to energy, aboriginal affairs, infrastructure and environment. 

Meanwhile, in October 2011 and June 2013 Conflict of Interest records, Mark Strahl disclosed that his wife, Lisa, has a "nominal" interest in Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc. - the company which was engaged in the Enbridge contracting.

The Vancouver Observer contacted Dawson’s office on January 13 to confirm this information.

Dawson advised that "any new or revised declarations will be posted in the relevant public registry once signed".

 

With respect to your question related to MP Mark Strahl, all publicly declarable information relating to him is available in the public registry under the Conflict of Interest Code for Members of the House of Commons, which is available on our website.  

As Mr. Strahl was recently appointed a Parliamentary Secretary, he is in the process of completing his initial compliance under the Conflict of Interest Act. This should be completed shortly and any new or revised declarations will be posted in the respective public registry under the Act and the Code once signed. 

Signs of backpedaling

When The Vancouver Observer accessed MP Mark Strahl’s Conflict of Interest disclosures in late January, a new backdated public declaration had appeared - sometime after January 14.

Signed by Mark Strahl on December 19, 2013, the backdated declaration had removed any reference to his spouse's ‘nominal interest in Chuck Strahl Consulting Inc.’

That was the same day that the National Energy Board Joint Review Panel for the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Project recommended that the federal government approve the proposed pipeline.

When The Vancouver Observer pressed further on this perceived conflict of interest and subsequent backpedaling, Dawson's office responded:

 "Mr. Mark Strahl’s declaration was signed on December 19, 2013 and placed in the public registry on our website on January 16, 2014. The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s role regarding public statements (under the Code) and public declarations (under the Act) is that once a public statement or declaration has been signed and returned to the Office, it is placed in the relevant public registry, normally within 48 hours."

Dawson’s office did not respond on why it took almost a month to publicly post a document which under normal circumstances would take normally 48 hours once signed.

Dawson has been criticized in her handling of the matter, with Susan Riley of the Ottawa Citizen weighing in: "This really raises questions about the ethics commissioner. If I were charged with an infamous crime, I would want Mary Dawson to be the judge - because she lets everybody off with a slap of the wrist," she told CBC's Sunday Scrum yesterday.

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