Lobbying scandal: Trudeau’s disgraced ex-campaign co-chair was paid by TransCanada

by: Obert Madondo  | Oct 16, 2015

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau's disgraced former national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, was paid by TransCanada Corp, the company behind the controversial Energy East tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Flickr/CC)

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s disgraced former national campaign co-chair, Dan Gagnier, was paid by TransCanada Corp, the company behind the controversial Energy East tar sands pipeline. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Flickr/CC)

Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges recently called Stephen Harper “a pawn or puppet of corporate power”. If opinion polls are to be believed, on Monday, Canadian voters will ditch the Conservative leader and jump straight into the arms of another puppet of corporate power.

The waiting arms of Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau.

In August, opinion polls had the Liberal Party languishing in third place, behind the New Democrats and Conservatives. Now the party is on top. There’s even talk of a Liberal majority.

Turns out one of the geniuses behind the Liberals’ meteoric rise – one of Trudeau’s top five advisors – is a man paid by TransCanada Corp, the company behind the proposed Energy East tar sands pipeline. A man linked to a disgraced former Harper advisor.

That man is Dan Gagnier, Trudeau’s now former national campaign co-chair. Also, a big-time Liberal Party donor.

As first reported by The Canadian Press, on Monday, Gagnier invited TransCanada to lobby the post-Harper government on Canada’s national energy strategy. He dispatched a three page email, addressed to multiple TransCanada executives, offering insider “advice on how and when to lobby a new government — including if it happened to be a Liberal minority.”

In a piece titled, “Former Liberal campaign co-chair was being paid by TransCanada“, iPolitics reported Thursday:

Former Liberal campaign co-chair Daniel Gagnier has been working for months for TransCanada Corp., helping it with its controversial Energy East pipeline, while at the same time working as an key advisor to Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau. TransCanada Corp communications director James Millar confirms that the corporation has been paying Gagnier for his advice.

We’ve a glimpse into the soul of a company that’s willing to pay off and bully Canadians to win Energy East approval.

Canada’s industry-friendly national energy strategy relies on the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. Chris Hedges says the strategy creates conditions that allow oil profiteers to “dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation“.

Energy East is a key plank in the planned expansion of the tar sands. If built, it would become North America’s largest oil pipeline, transporting 1.1 million barrels of crude per day from Alberta to Canada’s East Coast. It would impact more than 75 communities in Alberta, Sakatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. Environmentalists speak of the increased risk of oil spills and “run away climate change”.

Maclean’s magazine tells us that Gagnier was “a go-to voice on Quebec strategy for Trudeau and his team”. That strategy isn’t just about wresting the Quebec vote from the NDP. With TransCanada in the mix, it’s a strategy that involves suppressing opposition to Energy East.

“[Gagnier’s] counsel has been helpful in guiding us on how best to communicate the benefits of the project to Canadians,” a TransCanada spokesperson told Maclean’s on Thursday.

As we learned last fall, TransCanada once hired Edelman, one of the world’s largest PR firm, to help market Energy East. Greenpeace obtained internal strategic documents revealing Edelman advising TransCanada to prosecute a “perpetual campaign” of propaganda, demonization, character assassination, smear campaign, economic warfare, against pipeline opponents.

“Add layers of difficulty for our opponents, distracting them from their mission and causing them to redirect their resources. We cannot allow our opponents to have a free pass,” Edelman advised.

RELATED: David Suzuki “Won’t Be Intimidated” By TransCanada’s Dirty War Against Climate Justice Activists

Gagnier is the president of the Energy Policy Institute of Canada (EPIC), the same energy industry-funded think tank Bruce Carson, Harper’s ex-adviser, illegally lobbied. Carson currently faces charges of illegal lobbying and influence peddling.

In an early 2012 Open Letter (content now disappeared), then natural resources minister Joe Oliver labeled environmental movements critical to the federal pipeline approval process “radical groups” funded by “foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest”. EPIC applauded Oliver’s effort to “optimize the regulatory system to remove unnecessary barriers to development”.

The Liberals’ response to the Gagnier lobbying scandal has so far been scandalous.

Their initial response was that Gagnier did not break any ethical standards. They even told VICE News that he’s “always operated within full accordance of the rules”.

And then, the victim card. The Liberals were unaware of the lobbying activities of Big Oil’s inside man in their camp. According to iPolitics, “Gagnier had led the campaign to believe that he wasn’t helping TransCanada on federal government issues.”

Trudeau “knew” or ought to have known that the man who worked on his campaign from before he was elected party leader in 2013 lobbied on the side. As Maclean’s puts it, “Gagnier was in the war room periodically”.

Then Gagnier resigned “to avoid becoming a distraction to the campaign”. In other words, to kill the story before Canadians begin to question Trudeau’s soft spot for Big Oil.

The Liberal leader is a staunch supporter of Energy East and Keystone XL, TransCanada’s other proposed mega pipeline. Just after being elected party leader in 2013, Trudeau shared his steadfast support of the controversial pipeline with top American officials during a trip to Washington, D.C. He even blasted Harper for failing to push the pipeline through.

By late Thursday, Trudeau was saying Gagnier had “acted in an inappropriate way”, and his actions were “unacceptable”. It’s a veiled attack. A throwback to the day Harper attacked his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, after initially defending him for his attempt to cover up Sen. Mike Duffy’s fraudulent Senate expense claims.

Justin Trudeau is a fine progressive. But he’s the new face of the same old Liberal party of scandals and servitude to corporate power. The facilitator of “change” from the Conservative “old boys club” back to the Liberal “old boys club”.

Lobbyists and Big Oil insiders are rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of the Liberals returning to power.

Around the Web:

SPECIAL APPEAL: Please empower The Canadian Progressive and help us publish more stories like this by supporting this GoFundMe Fund-raising Initiative. Thank you!

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow me on Twitter: @Obiemad

The following two tabs change content below.

Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based independent journalist and progressive political blogger. He's the publisher and editor of The Canadian Progressive.