An avoidance strategy

In the last election, the Liberals promised British Columbians they would run the most open and accountable government in Canada. But it seems that promise doesn't extend to answering questions about Patrick Kinsella, the most influential provincial Liberal backroom boy in the province. Earlier, Public Eye reported in the Times Colonist that Mr. Kinsella was denying two-year old allegations that he worked to lobby the government on behalf of aluminum giant Alcan Inc. If those allegations were true, Mr. Kinsella would have been in violation of legislation requiring anyone who lobbies government to register with the provincial lobbyist registry or face a fine of up to $25,000.

But Mr. Kinsella, who describes himself as a communications consultant and is the Liberals' 2005 re-election campaign co-chair, says he never talks to cabinet ministers or political staffers about any of his clients - which include Alcan. And that means he doesn't need to register or identify whom he works for.

One of the people who could confirm Mr. Kinsella isn't working as a lobbyist is Revenue Minister Rick Thorpe. When he was the minister of competition, science and enterprise, Minister Thorpe was the man responsible for stickhandling the government's relationship with Alcan. But on Thursday, after repeated phone calls, Minister Thorpe's office declined Public Eye's request for an interview to talk about Mr. Kinsella.

That's not surprising. Two years ago, Terrace Standard writer Jeff Nagel asked Minister Thorpe about Mr. Kinsella's relationship with Alcan and the government. But, in an interview, Nagel confirmed Minister Thorpe wouldn't give him a direct answer to those questions.

And Minister Thorpe isn't the only one who has dodged questions about Kinsella. In May 2003, interim New Democrat leader Joy MacPhail asked Premier Gordon Campbell if Mr. Kinsella had ever met with him about one of his alleged clients.

But the premier said he didn't "have an answer for that (question). As the member opposite knows, if she wants to know about specific meeting times with either myself or the minister, she can do that through freedom of information."

That makes Public Eye wonder why both Minister Thorpe and Premier Campbell seem so anxious to avoid discussing whether Kinsella, who says he isn't a lobbyist, is lobbying them. After all, what's there to hide - especially when you're supposed to be running the most open and accountable government in Canada?

Credit where credit is due: A version of this article ran in today's Times Colonist.

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