Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Liquor, Guns, Grits and Christy Clark - change you won't believe!

Premier Christy Clark

Clark's Principal Secretary Dimitri Pantazopoulos & old boss
 - Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Former federal Liberal leader Stephane Dion
Weapons industry, private liquor industry lobbyists and Bob Rae federal Liberals - look who Premier Christy Clark hired as her office staff and brace for lots of controversy

Bill Tieleman's 24 hours/The Tyee column

Tuesday March 22, 2011

By Bill Tieleman

"Dear Mark and Christy, I thank you very much for having hosted me in your beautiful home. It was a beginning of a long journey in which we will accomplish a lot for Canada together."

- Stephane Dion, former federal Liberal leader, 2006

New Premier Christy Clark says she is all about bringing "change" to the BC Liberal government of ex-premier Gordon Campbell.

But when she says change, what does she mean? Particularly given that the key staffers in charge of bringing that change include...

- A former weapons industry lobbyist connected to two controversial Ontario mayors and Stephen Harper's Conservatives;

- An ex-private liquor stores lobbyist;

- And a long-time federal Liberal Party activist with ties to MP Bob Rae's leadership campaign.

The Grit connection should be no surprise. Indeed, there is a sense Clark is painting the town of Victoria red -- federal Liberal red that is.

The "Christy" in the letter from former Liberal leader Stephane Dion quoted above is, of course, B.C.'s new premier -- a long-time federal Liberal whose estranged husband Mark Marissen was the mastermind behind Dion's surprise federal Liberal leadership victory in 2006, as well as the losing 2008 federal election campaign co-chair.

Marissen was also prominent as Paul Martin's top B.C. lieutenant in the bitter takeover of the federal Liberal Party that pushed Prime Minister Jean Chretien out of office.

The former Grit campaigners

Clark's roots in the national Liberal Party go back beyond 1993, when she worked in Ottawa for federal Transportation Minister Doug Young.

And those roots show in the premier's office today. Her Chief of Staff Mike McDonald is a veteran federal Liberal organizer who worked on MP Bob Rae's leadership campaign in 2006.

Clark's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad served as Liberal Party of Canada-BC executive director and 2006 federal election campaign director.

As of Aug. 2010, Haakstad was scheduled to be Election Readiness Co-Chair in the next federal election and is still currently listed as LPC-BC party secretary.

Their links to Railgate case

Both McDonald and Haakstad have connections with the still simmering B.C. Legislature raid case.

Clark has rejected calls for a public inquiry into events surrounding the political corruption trial of former BC Liberal ministerial aides David Basi and Bob Virk, which suddenly ended with surprise guilty pleas in Oct. 2010 and defence lawyers for the pair receiving $6 million in legal fees.

In B.C. Supreme Court pre-trial hearings in 2007, defence lawyers alleged that Basi reported to McDonald -- then BC Liberal caucus communications director -- about political dirty tricks such as paying phoney callers to support government MLAs on talk radio shows.

The allegations were never proven nor tested in court and Campbell always declined to comment on them, even though Basi never faced charges in connection with the actions.

Haakstad has different connections to the Basi-Virk case.

In 2005-2006 as Liberal Party of Canada-BC executive director, she reported to then-LPC-BC president Jamie Elmhirst, co-owner of the lobbying firm Pilothouse Public Affairs that was searched by RCMP in Dec. 2003 in conjunction with its search of the B.C. Legislature.

Elmhirst's business partners Erik Bornmann and Brian Kieran both turned Crown witnesses and were to testify against Basi and Virk.

Bornmann and Kieran provided money and benefits to Basi and Virk in exchange for obtaining confidential government information before the $1 billion sale of B.C. Rail. Pilothouse was retained by losing bidder OmniTRAX.

Elmhirst was subpoenaed to testify but never charged with any crime, nor was OmniTRAX.

Haakstad also served as a provincial liquor industry lobbyist as executive director of the Alliance of Beverage Licensees of B.C., representing the interests of private liquor stores.

Haakstad had previously worked for Clark as her ministerial assistant when Clark was deputy premier, education minister and children and family development minister.

The weapons lobbyist

The exception to the rule of federal Liberal links is Clark's new principal secretary Dimitri Pantazopoulos, the former pollster for the federal Conservatives and their predecessors, the Canadian Alliance and the Reform Party, who ran a voter identification phone room in Vancouver for Clark's campaign.

But Pantazopoulos comes with some considerable controversy.

Until Oct. 2010, Pantazopoulos was a registered federal lobbyist for the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries [CADSI] -- the umbrella organization for makers of guns, bombs, armoured vehicles, fighter aircraft and other military equipment.

In a lobbying activity report filed with the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada, Pantazopoulos states his job was to:

"Convince the federal government to develop and implement a defence industrial policy for Canada and an implementing strategy.

"Modernizing Canada's defence procurement process including improved Industrial Regional Benefits and measures that would promote greater participation by Canadian industry in meeting the needs of the Canadian Forces.

"To improve the Industrial and Regional Benefits program so that Canada leverages defence procurements to maximum economic, trade and industrial value in key capability areas of economic and national security priority," Pantazopoulos wrote.

On its own website, the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries says it "is the voice for the Canadian defence and security industries. The Association exists to strengthen the relationship and dialogue between government and our industries and to maximize the contribution the members can make to national defence and security."

"As the primary advocate for the defence and security industries, CADSI represents the interests of industry to governments, politicians, the media, special interest groups, opinion leaders and the public."

The pollster also drew unwanted attention when 24 Hours newspaper exclusively reported last month that a telephone interviewer working on the Clark campaign for Pantazopoulos' Ottawa-based Praxicus Public Strategies said he was terminated after complaining about the $9 an hour he was being paid -- less than the $10.25 an hour Ontario minimum wage.

Rich MacMillan said a supervisor told phoners that workplace changes were coming because "Dimitri our boss needs to feed his family" -- referring to Pantazopoulos, who hired MacMillan by email in December.

"Yeah, is Dimitri trying to feed them on $9 an hour?" MacMillan asked the supervisor in response.

But in an email, Pantazopoulos strongly rejected MacMillan's claims.

"Nobody has been terminated from this office for reasons related to disputes related to salary levels," Pantazopoulos wrote, adding that, "All decisions related to staffing are at the SOLE discretion of Praxicus and not the Christy Clark campaign."

Pantazopoulos was also the pollster for new right-wing Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who defeated ex-Ontario Liberal deputy premier George Smitherman in the Oct. 2010 election and is now moving to privatize garbage collection and other city services.

And Pantazopoulos also polled for defeated right-wing Ottawa Mayor Larry O'Brien in the same election.  O'Brien was acquitted of influence-peddling charges in a high-profile case in 2009.

The message managers

This all may make communications more challenging than expected for two former media members now working as Clark's press secretary, ex-CTV television reporter Chris Olsen and assistant press secretary Rebecca Scott, an ex-CKNW Bill Good Show talk radio producer.

Ex-lobbyists for guns and liquor, legal issues and federal Liberal connections galore -- and they all work out of the premier's office.

Clark told BC Liberals that "change begins tonight" when she won the leadership contest Feb. 26.

The shape of that change is becoming clearer.


.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Christy Clark
She didn't come back for you

Anonymous said...

Christy Clark
She didn't come back for you

Adrian Dix hasn't either.

Let's end the negativity and present something positive to the voters for a change.

Vote Mike Farnworth for leader.

Susanna said...

If we ever hope to see political apathy ended in BC or Canada as a whole, its residents MUST become engaged and put an end to the who's who of backroom deals and political connections, and send a very clear and direct message to these leader wannabe's that their day of deception is OVER!

Anonymous said...

I read, Pantazopoulos is working for Christy now, as a strategist. The Liberal crime family, certainly have long arms. Right into the Conservative family. They are the Bobsy Twins. It's difficult to see where, the one party begins and the other party stops.

The positive would be for the voters, the day the BC Liberals are driven from this province.

The NDP have really good candidates, it's going to be tough to decide, which candidate to choose.

It looks as though, there will be a Federal election. Harper and Campbell, are working hand in hand on some projects. Hawes has said, the back door was left open. The Prosperity Mine can be re-applied for. Harper and Campbell have been working on that. Sorry Christy, you don't get the glory, it was already in motion.

Harper and Campbell, have been working to, drill oil and gas wells, off BC's coast. A 6.1 earthquake in the Queen Charlotte's, doesn't scare them any.

Campbell has signed in favor for, China's dirty oil tanker's coming into our beautiful coastal seas. So, the pipeline will be forced on the people, against this abomination. When the pipeline is finished, so are the jobs. All of our assets and natural resources, Campbell has thieved and sold, will be no benefit for the BC citizens. The wealthy corporations, will be the ones to benefit. Harper and Campbell have also been working on this. It's a wait and see, if Christy will try and take the credit for that too. I'm pretty sure, Campbell is still bossing the job. Christy is only his mouthpiece. She has flipped flopped all over the place.
there is no way, Campbell would allow Christy to handle all of his unfinished projects. She is too much a total flake. It is impossible to believe anything she says, tomorrow she will contradict herself.

Norm Farrell said...

This is the best description of the Clark team that I've seen so far.

Good work.

DPL said...

2:04 Anon is pushing for Mike Farnsworth but is too shy to even manage a non de Plume. Mike is on my list but not at the top as Adrian Dix occupies that position and there is no doubt Adrian will remain in that position.

Anonymous said...

yikes... seriously frightening far right nutters,

e.a.f. said...

We thought campbell and his lieberals were bad, well things can get worse and it looks like its shaping up to be just like that given who christy has started to hire.
You can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep.

Outsourced again said...

As John Stuart Mill said...

“Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives.”

But this covers "liberals" like Christy and her former husband who are fully and foremost neo-cons in ideology.

Ron Sward said...

That old saw "the more things change, the more they stay the same" certainly applies here. The same crooks perpetrating the same junk as Gordo and Harper were just a month ago. Nothing changes unless we change it. I tell my kids the same thing. If you want change then you must change. Lets change how we are governed. Remember we are the employers not the employees.

Anonymous said...

I do not believe Christy Clark has set all of this in motion, I really don't think she is capable. We know who, the master of dirty tactics is. He is still running BC from behind the scene. He has to be. Who else would be that underhanded?

BC is rotten to the core with corruption, and that is Campbell's doing. He did say, he may stick around as an adviser, to the BC Liberal Party. And, that's what I believe.

Anonymous said...

"2:04 Anon is pushing for Mike Farnsworth but is too shy to even manage a non de Plume. Mike is on my list but not at the top as Adrian Dix occupies that position and there is no doubt Adrian will remain in that position."

Adrian doesn't have the appeal that Mike does. The polls show it, and the NDP membership will show it. Adrian represents the old NDP, the kind that we don't need anymore
as it doesn't appeal to the voters as has been in the past. Adrian continually complains. Who wants that?

Vote Mike Farnworth for a better NDP.

Outsourced again said...

Anon said at 11:02 AM PDT

"Adrian represents the old NDP, the kind that we don't need anymore"

Are you completely bonkers, me boy. Farnworth is no doubt a fine guy, but we need some one to stand up for workers and their families. There are way too many people wiling to compromise. Before they Wisconsinize all the labour unions, we need a strong working class leader who will stand for us. The problem with Carole was that she was far to willing to compromise with the people who got us into the terrible mess we are in provincially and nationally.

Wake up! We have already lost so many good paying jobs for the sake of the profit of multinationals. We have resources - don't give them away.

Look at the compromises on the environment. Let's not flood good land and then give the electricity and water to the multinationals.

Get some courage, lad. We are heading back to a time when we had no health care, no safety net, no job security, no pensions and when it took all in the family to pay the rent.

Is that what you want? Give me a break. Adrian may also be a nice guy, but I hope he puts a big "NO" to corporate tax cuts while 1 in 5 kids go hungry in this province.

If you don't think "class politics" is important, you will be one of us to suffer. I just can't believe the level of eduction in this god=forsaken province!!!

And now we have a "new" advisor for Christy who makes racist statements about immigrants causing crime! But I guess we want someone who will be nice about "objecting" to racism.

Anonymous said...

"Are you completely bonkers, me boy. Farnworth is no doubt a fine guy, but we need some one to stand up for workers and their families."

Farnworth can stand up for workers and families. Also keep in mind that workers are not solely NDP nor are families.

"There are way too many people wiling to compromise. Before they Wisconsinize all the labour unions, we need a strong working class leader who will stand for us."

I doubt what has happened in Wisconsin would happen here. Different enviornment, different laws, different political system.

"The problem with Carole was that she was far to willing to compromise with the people who got us into the terrible mess we are in provincially and nationally. "

Correct, but she was also a very weak leader. Did very little nationally.

"Wake up! We have already lost so many good paying jobs for the sake of the profit of multinationals."

Not true to your frame of mind, true to others, but consider it is a global economy and many union jobs exist with multinationals.

"Get some courage, lad. We are heading back to a time when we had no health care, no safety net, no job security, no pensions and when it took all in the family to pay the rent."

Bit of a stretch there, lad.


Is that what you want? Give me a break. Adrian may also be a nice guy, but I hope he puts a big "NO" to corporate tax cuts while 1 in 5 kids go hungry in this province.

And more would if corporations pull out of B.C. because of Adrian's nonsense. Mike is far more resilient in seeing economic growth. Let's not take the NDP back to the what they for socialism idealogy in the 1980's.

The NDP needs to moderate itself, not be beholden to unions but also protect the labour environment, but that means saying "no" once and a while too.

Anonymous said...

If you don't think "class politics" is important, you will be one of us to suffer. I just can't believe the level of eduction in this god=forsaken province!!!

"Class politics" is a domain of the proliteriat. But agree, the education level of some is insane.

Consider the "multinational" opposition as you use IBM based or Apple based computers, watch TV made by Sony, Panasonic, etc, and drive a car made by Ford, GM, Toyota etc, and ride a bus that is powered by Cummins or Caterpillar if it is diesel, plus use paper manufactured by Weyerhaeuser, and use a smart phone or other cell phone made by other multinational concerns...

It's like a Green Party candidate office saying it is "green" but uses plastics, petroleum based felt pens, toner cartridges, and bleached white toilet paper.

Not to mention the candidate wearing clothes with a polyester or nylon mix and coloured with synthetic dyes.