Ex-MP Chuck Strahl shouldn’t mix spy committee and pipeline lobbying by Adrian Wyld, January 10, 2014, The Canadian Press
Chuck Strahl, the former Reform and Conservative MP, says he just has to make a living. Trouble is, he’s doing two things that don’t sit well with each other — overseeing Canada’s spy agency and lobbying for the most controversial energy project in the country. Strahl needs to choose one or the other. He can continue to chair the Security Intelligence Review Committee, or SIRC, as he has since June 2012. In that capacity he heads the group that rides herd on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Or he can continue, through his consulting firm, to be a registered lobbyist in British Columbia for Enbridge Inc. and its subsidiary Northern Gateway Pipelines LP, which wants to build a pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to the B.C. coast. Strahl himself doesn’t see a contradiction. He’s not wealthy, he’s relatively young (56) and he needs to work after an 18-year career as an MP and minister in the Harper government. He says he checked with the federal conflict-of-interest and ethics commissioner and she declared that he is complying with the rules governing such situations.
Others, however, emphatically do see a problem — and it’s one of the government’s own making. “It smells terrible,” says federal NDP House Leader Nathan Cullen. The issue is that under the Harper government, CSIS has been one of the agencies monitoring pipeline opponents as potential risks to national security. “Canadians were already concerned about the federal government using CSIS and the Canada Revenue Agency to target environmental groups and charities,” Cullen told the Canadian Press this week. “Now we learn the chair of CSIS’s civilian oversight committee is a paid pipeline lobbyist. This just further undermines people’s confidence in the fairness of the pipeline approval process.”
Appearances matter. Even if Strahl is not violating the federal conflict-of-interest act, he or the government should take steps to avoid the troubling appearance that pipeline politics and intelligence matters are so closely intertwined. The last thing this government needs is another cloud over the security oversight committee. It stubbed its toe badly by naming the dubious Arthur Porter to chair SIRC in 2010. Porter is now in Panama, resisting extradition to Canada on charges of fraud, taking secret commissions and money laundering.
Strahl can protect the integrity of SIRC and public confidence in the pipeline review process by choosing between his intelligence work and his energy lobbying. He should do that without delay. [Emphasis added]
Breaking: Chief spy watchdog, Chuck Strahl, working for Enbridge since 2011 by Matthew Millar, January 6, 2014
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. … 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.
“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.
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”.
“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. [Emphasis added]
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