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B.C. Greens table legislation to prevent conflicts of interest

April 20, 2023
   6 min read
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For immediate release

April 20, 2023

VICTORIA, B.C. – Today, the B.C. Green Caucus tabled amendments to the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act, to modernize provincial conflict of interest law and protect the public interest. 

“I am proud to table this legislation. It’s apparent – and concerning – how entwined our provincial government is with big industry,” said Sonia Furstenau, Leader of the BC Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley. “The proposed legislation will strengthen our laws to ensure that the public interest is protected.

“This prevents MLAs from taking board positions or employment for a period of time after they cease to hold office. The amendments also permit former members to apply to the conflict-of-interest commissioner for an exemption, which the commissioner can grant if they are satisfied that the public interest is protected.

“It recently came to light when the former premier John Horgan took a board appointment with Elk Valley Resources, a spinoff of Teck, a large corporation with a questionable environmental and human rights track record, hours after stepping down as an MLA.

“The former premier and some of his colleagues still in the legislative chamber, have been consistently lobbied by Teck. This is about power, influence, and access.

“Actions like this result in a perceived conflict of interest which my colleague MLA Olsen and I see as a threat to the public interest and a risk to democracy.”

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Media contact
JoJo Beattie, Press Secretary
B.C. Green Caucus
+1 250-882-6187 | jojo.beattie@leg.bc.ca 

Members’ Conflict of Interest Amendment Act: Backgrounder 

On April 20th, 2023, MLA Furstenau introduced the Members’ Conflict of Interest Amendment Act. This bill brings the provincial act in line with the federal Conflict of Interest Act, which establishes that a former public office holder cannot enter into a contract of service with, or accept an appointment to a board of directors of, an entity with which they had direct and significant official dealings for a specified period of time after leaving office. 

For Members, the period is 1 year; for Ministers, the period is 2 years. This is consistent with the federal Act. 

The amendments also set out an allowance for exemptions, permitting former Members to apply to the Conflict-of-Interest Commissioner for an exemption, which the Commissioner can grant if they are satisfied that the public interest is protected. 

The B.C. Green Caucus tabled these amendments following John Horgan’s appointment to the board of Elk Valley Resources, which, combined with the government’s relationship with Teck Resources, raised concerns that the public interest was not protected.

Timeline and sources:  

  1. A meeting note prepared for Ministers Heyman and Ralston on March 10, 2022 FOI’d by The Narwhal, discusses Teck’s water quality mitigation progress in the Elk Valley, and provides evidence that 2022 selenium levels were 267 times higher than what is considered safe for aquatic life. Reported here.  
  2. Teck’s lobbying activities: 
    1. Teck has registered 26 lobbyists since 2020, and registered 167 lobbying reports during Premier Horgan’s premiership, including 30 meetings or communications directly with the office of the premier, as reported by The Narwhal here
    2. Lobbying Activity Report 2851-18101 reveals that on April 10, 2022, Teck lobbied Premier Horgan’s Deputy Minister and Chief of Staff, Minister Heyman’s Deputy Minister, and Minister Ralston’s Deputy Minister. The subject of this lobbying activity was to discuss “Provincial-US transboundary matters.”  
  1. Ktunaxa Nation received this series of documents in an FOI request. The documents reveal that the provincial Ministries of Environment and Energy, Mines, and Low Carbon Innovation, including both Deputy Ministers, wrote to the federal Minister of Foreign Affairs Melanie Joly, on April 14th, 2022 outlining B.C.’s opposition for the pollution in the Elk Valley (specifically, the Koocanusa Reservoir) to be brought before the International Joint Commission.  
  2. Lobbying Activity Report 2851-22049 details Teck’s most recent lobbying interaction with Premier Horgan, on October 11, 2022. Also in attendance were the Premier’s Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff, the Deputy Minister for the Ministry of Environment, Minister Ralston, and Minister Ralston’s Deputy Minister. The subject of the meeting was to discuss mine operations and project development. 
  3. John Horgan stepped down as Premier on November 18, 2022 and began discussing the board appointment with Teck in December 2022, as reported by The Globe and Mail then stepped down as MLA on March 31, 2023 and announced his board appointment on April 1, 2023. 
  4. International relevance: Pollution in the Elk Valley was a subject during the US presidential visit to Canada earlier this month. Following President Biden’s visit, he and Prime Minister Trudeau announced in their joint statement on March 24, 2023, that “Canada and the United States also intend to reach an agreement in principle by this summer to reduce and mitigate the impacts of water pollution in the Elk-Kootenay watershed…”   

 

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