The head of the watchdog committee overseeing Canada’s spy agency has registered as a lobbyist for Northern Gateway pipeline builder Enbridge.
Chuck Strahl, who served as a federal Reform and Conservative Party MP from 1993 to 2011 from British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, registered as a lobbyist with the B.C. government last month, according to documents uncovered by the Vancouver Observer.
The Harper government appointed Strahl in 2012 to a five-year term as chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, an arm’s-length government agency tasked with overseeing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).
According to B.C.’s lobbyist registry, Strahl’s consulting firm registered as a lobbyist of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway on Dec. 6, 2013, two weeks before a joint review panel recommended approving the project.
Strahl “is arranging a meeting with the Minister of Natural Gas Development on behalf of Northern Gateway Pipelines L.P.,” the lobbyist registry stated.
The news raises questions about potential conflicts of interest between government agencies and the energy industry in the midst of a political struggle between environmental groups and energy companies over pipelines.
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According to documents obtained by the Guardian last fall, CSIS and other security agencies, including the electronic spy agency CSEC and the RCMP, have been participating in twice-yearly government briefings for the energy industry.
At one such meeting held last May, lunch was sponsored by Enbridge, the company now employing Strahl as a lobbyist.
“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,” Green Party Leader Elizabeth May told the Observer last fall, following the revelations.
As a former cabinet minister, Strahl is prohibited from lobbying the federal government for five years following his departure from office, but that doesn’t extend to lobbying provincial governments, the Observer reports.
Strahl came under accusations of conflict of interest during last year’s B.C. provincial election, when Premier Christy Clark thanked him for “actively helping us on this campaign.”
As head of the SIRC, Strahl is barred from political campaigning.
Following complaints from opposition parties, Clark recanted her statement, saying Strahl had “stepped back” from political activities.