BY ETHAN BARON, THE PROVINCE MARCH 23, 2011 COMMENTS
The fox is in the B.C. henhouse: Premier Christy Clark’s new transition adviser chairs a company that does hundreds of millions of dollars of business with the provincial government.
Arch-conservative Gwyn Morgan heads the board of SNC-Lavalin, the Montreal-based firm that built the $1.9-billion Canada Line and will run it for more than 30 years, that has a $587-million contract to expand the Waneta Dam hydro-generating facility in the West Kootenay, and that maintains all B.C. Ferry terminals for a price the provincial ferry corporation won’t disclose.
Industry Canada describes B.C.’s transportation ministry, Canada Line and the ferry corporation as “key clients” of SNC-Lavalin. Adding to the unsavouriness of Morgan’s position with the Clark government is the fact that he donated $10,000 to her leadership campaign.
Clark’s selection of Morgan — the retired founding CEO of natural gas giant Encana — as the man to guide her into her new job says a great deal about her political plans.
In 2006, Opposition MPs on a Commons committee found Morgan “unsuitable” to serve as voluntary chief of a new patronage-watchdog office, because of comments he’d made about immigrants and multiculturalism.
The previous year, in a speech at B.C.’s Fraser Institute, Morgan had blamed immigration for violence in Toronto and Calgary. In a subsequent speech in Toronto, Morgan suggested multiculturalism was the cause of rioting in France and Australia, and warned Canadians to beware multiculturalism doesn’t become a divisive value.
In a September column in the Globe and Mail, Morgan attacked Canada’s public health care, arguing for private delivery of publicly funded care plus a two-tier system allowing Canadians to buy entirely private care. Those who would oppose his ideas were “monopoly-loving union leaders and their left-wing sycophants.” In another Globe column, he described unionized public-sector workers as “abusive” toward the citizenry, and insisted that unionized workers providing “important” public services should be forbidden from striking.
I wanted to ask Clark why she decided a rabid right-winger was the best pick to help her lead B.C. And I especially wanted to ask Clark how she could possibly justify bringing on an adviser who leads a company heavily dependent on B.C. government contracts. She didn’t call me back. Clearly, the premier doesn’t want to talk about Morgan.
Considering his contribution to her campaign, his company’s intensely close financial ties to her government, and his inflammatory political views, I’m not surprised.
I am, however, a bit surprised that Clark would so quickly demonstrate such a lack of accountability to British Columbians as to select an adviser who is obviously in a conflict of interest. If I were the chair of a corporation that was making a mint off B.C., there’s no place I’d rather be than by the premier’s side, steering her along.
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