How can something so right be so wrong?

Last week, your humble organ reported former provincial attorney general Geoff Plant had been retained - through his law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP - to assist the provincial government on a number of aboriginal treaty negotiations issues. Under the Members' Conflict of Interest Act, former executive council members are usually restricted from being offered such contracts within two years of leaving office. But government used a loophole built into that legislation to allow the hiring. Asked for his opinion on the matter last night, Public Eye Radio guest Leonard Krog, said "There is a sense out there that Geoff Plant is a very intelligent, able, competent guy - not the kind of person you'd want to go after. That this is a fellow who's sort of above public reproach." But the New Democrat MLA added "I think that hiring Mr. Plant in a position like this so soon after the election - claiming that it gets past the legislation that restricts cabinet ministers from doing this in the two years of leaving office - I think it leaves a pretty bad taste in the public's mouth."

"There are times when it may be legal to do it. And you may want to do it. But you have to step back and say to yourself, what's the public going to think about this? Will this enhance the public view of politics, politicians and government. I just think there are a lot of able and capable people in British Columbia today available to take on the kind of position Mr. Plant has taken. And I think the public interest would have been better served if one of those had been chosen," concluded the Opposition critic for the attorney general.

Mr. Krog also called upon government to close the aforementioned legislative loophole

13 Comments

If there are rules against Plant taking work from the government, it is actually quite ridiculous.

It's one thing to ban lobbying the government for two years if you were a member of the government. It's quite another to say that someone as talented as Geoff can't do a government contract because he was a politician before.

It is just these kinds of things that make people wary about getting into politics in BC.

First, getting rid of pensions, second, paying them less than almost any jurisdiction. And that's on top of the daily harrassment of reporters who have no idea what they are talking about.

Geoff is lucky - he is a lawyer, so he can have some cover for doing this kind of work in the poisioned political environment we work under. What about other politicians who aren't lawyers? See what happened after the 2001 election. Many of them took quite a long time to find a job.

Cut the politicians a break.

Clearly, working for government is not a problem - note that Jeff Bray is now caucus Executive Director now. The restrictions were designed to ensure that cabinet members did not use their access to the information and decision makers to benefit a client.

If Geoff Plant is retained as a lawyer by a client to work on issues related to government policy and government decision making, then this is where the problem lies, but there has been a precedence set at what is OK and what is not.

Back in 1996 after she was defeated Elizabeth Cull worked for various clients on how to deal with government - but she did not go in to talk with people in government on behalf of the clients. Nothing was done about this in 1996-98 and therefore gives some guidance to what is ok and what is not. Yes, many people questioned how close to the edge she had come, but in the end nothing was done

How can something so right be so wrong?

In a word: cronyism.

We paid for Mr Plant's salary as an MLA and a Minister to become an expert on this file. Why would we not want to take advantage of this expertise now. It seems absolutely ridiculous that we would not get the best experts to work on a file to get it solved because of "how it looks". Let's grow up and stop this petty bickering over optics - this is a billion dollar problem that need to get solved.

If Plant is such a whizbang lawyer working in the private sector , how will he have time to work for the new era gang? If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's a duck. If a cabinet minister leaves government he really should be working outside government for the two years people talk about. But no matter, as one Cabinet Minister once said." When you are government you can do anything"

We may not like the sleeze but as long as this gang has a majority expect such things to happen. Folks stay in power by paying lots of bucks to their friends. and when all else fails, offer to lower the suckers taxes, gets them every time

D1:

I'm not sure this "gang" is any different than other gangs. I'm sure were we to look back in detail we would find examples of similar happenings under the NDP.

While I support a ban on MLAs and especially former cabinet ministers working as lobbyists for a period of time after they leave office, I think its perfectly acceptable for them to be given assignments by government if they have obvious expertise.

Like all things in politics, it has to be able to pass the political sniff test. I think this one does.

Dl,

I'm glad you brought up what is certainly one of the best lines ever uttered by a politician. However, let's be clear about who spoke that line. It was David Zirnheldt, the former NDP MLA for Cariboo South. So, if your intention was to blacken the Liberal eye by bringing said quote forward...

The point is Mr. Plant has the experience and, this is important, the respect to get this job done.

Hi Eyes Open.
I had no problem remembering who made that statement. I did not imply it was someone from the new era gang. Nor was I trying to blacken the reputation of the present government as they do quite well doing their own blacking.
As some of us follow Hansard we hear a lot of clangers.

Just this last week we saw a minister repeatedly asked if Mr. Ready's terms were changed. The minister kept reading ealier terms of reference even though I'm sure most thinking people knew what Ready was doing. Something he does so well.In his recommendations he spelled out the changes to his mandate, and the date of those changes

Yet even today in question period the same minister was skating all over the place on why he chose to not answer the question a number of times. He went on for some time on issues sort of close to the question asked when a simple yes or no would work just fine

Usually it's called misleading the house.

In the case of David Zirnheldt, he apologized for making an ass of himself. We are waiting for DeJong to do the same.

David Zirnhelt's comment was taken abit out of context. That said, Who would have thought the BC Liberal's would prove him right and do it so often.

I'm confused. Is this whiz Plant the same Plant that remains the only Attorney-General in the history of the British Commonwealth in whom the Law Society had no confidence? Is this the same Plant who came within a hair's breadth of blowing Delgamuukw (a no-brainer if ever there was one). Is this the same Plant who put treaty negotiations back a year or more so he could dream up a series of ridiculous non-binding questions in what must be the stupidest referendum of all time?

None of the lawyers I know takes Plant seriously. Of course he got the contract because he's an old pal of Campbell. What's really at issue is why government would hire a man with so little talent for the work. Heaven knows, there's no shortage of lawyers with real talent and an excellent knowledge of the area.

To be a little bit fair about Plant, the ex Attorney General. He was doing what the guy who gave him the job told him to do. Just like any hack trying to keep his job. But then again he is supposed to be politically neutral, as is the Labour Minister who goes on daily rants about teachers during a protest against laws they and so many others believe are unjust.

Plant wil always land on his feet as long as he is considered an asset to the present government, when they goes he will disappear as well

Unfortunately as the article listed at http://www.mgcltd.ca/mgcltd/news/000627.pdf shows, former NDP cabinet minister Elizabeth Cull set the precedent back in 1996 for flouting the Members' Conflict of Interest Guidelines.

We don't see what all the fuss is about. Plant is a hero for denying undeserving poor people access to legal aid. We hope he continues to deny these so called first nations people the right to some land they think they own. We've never heard such preposterisms.
We hope Geoff kin make it down to Crawford for Thanksgiving and bring that drunk fella Gordy with him. I like his style.

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