Checking under the hood

The Western Canada Wilderness Committee is asking the premier's deputy minister to explain what qualifies Graham Whitmarsh to be British Columbia's top climate change bureaucrat. Earlier, Public Eye exclusively reported Mr. Whitmarsh has at least 14 years of experience working in the airline information technology and aerospace industries - including a stint at former finance minister Gary Collins's old company Harmony Airways. But Internet and newspaper database searches show no reference to Whitmarsh being involved in any carbon trading or climate action work. And that's what concerns the wilderness committee.

"We were very heartened by the Throne Speech in which the government made many commitments to take strong action against rising greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change," wrote committee executive director Andrea Reimer in a letter faxed to Jessica McDonald earlier this afternoon.

That being said though, "what we know about the process for appointment of Mr. Whitmarsh first as the Chief Carbon Trading Advisor and then as the Head of the Climate Action Secretariat has given us some pause in our early enthusiasm."

As a result, Ms. Reimer, on behalf of the committee's 37,000 provincial members, is requesting Ms. McDonald provide "biographical information on Mr. Whitmarsh that speaks to his professional, community or personal experience and achievements related to the job posting" - particularly "items relating to Mr. Whitmarsh's demonstrated policy understanding of key climate change issues and his track record on managing key cross-government projects."

And the committee is also asking Ms. McDonald to explain, "Why the hiring of the Head was not officially announced and/or biographical information provided, as is common practice on key government initiatives. We note, for example, that on the same day Mr. Whitmarsh was appointed, the Premier's Office announced the ActNow Leadership Council and provided biographical information for all the appointees."

The premier's communication director Dale Steeves has said Mr. Whitmarsh, "understands the key actions taken by other jurisdictions with respect to cap and trade and carbon offsets" - as well as having "completed research into the market for carbon offsets and the opportunity that they present to BC." But he's refused to say what qualifications Mr. Whitmarsh has to "understand" cap and trade systems. Nor would he say whether Mr. Whitmarsh's research into those systems was done as part of his present work with government or a past post.

The following is an edited copy of Ms. Reimer's letter.

***

WESTERN CANADA WILDERNESS COMMITTEE

NATIONAL OFFICE
227 Abbott Street Vancouver, BC V6B 2K7
Phone: 604-683-8220 Fax: 604-683-8229
www.wildernesscommittee.org

July 4, 2007

Ms. Jessica McDonald
Deputy Minister to the Premier and Cabinet Secretary
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8W 9E1

Dear Ms. McDonald,

I am writing today on behalf of the Wilderness Committee's 37,000 members and supporters in British Columbia to inquire about the recent appointment of Mr. Graham Whitmarsh as Head of the provincial government's Climate Action Secretariat.

We were very heartened by the Throne Speech in which the government made many commitments to take strong action against rising greenhouse gas emissions and the resulting climate change. We were also pleased to see how quickly the government backed up their words with action by creating a funded and staffed office - the Climate Action Secretariat - to manage the myriad of initiatives, spanning the breadth of provincial government jurisdiction, that were committed to in the Throne Speech.

However, what we know about the process for appointment of Mr. Whitmarsh first as the Chief Carbon Trading Advisor and then as the Head of the Climate Action Secretariat has given us some pause in our early enthusiasm.

We first became aware of Mr. Whitmarsh when he was appointed as Chief Carbon Trading Advisor prior to the closing of the postings for the Climate Action Secretariat on May 7, 2007. At that time we learned through the media that Mr. Whitmarsh's background was primarily with companies specializing in airline scheduling software as well as sitting on the board of a publicly traded capital pool which appeared to be involved in mining, and oil and gas development before its dissolution in 2002.

Subsequent to Mr. Whitmarsh's appointment to the Head of the Climate Action Secretariat it was further revealed by the media that Mr. Whitmarsh had previously worked in the sporting and military sectors, as well as most recently working with former finance minister Gary Collins at Harmony Airways. Further, the Premier's Communications Director, when given the opportunity by the media, appeared not to provide any specific biographical information for Mr. Whitmarsh.

I must stress that this information has all been gained from media reports and thus may not provide a full and accurate picture, which is why I am writing to you today. Any clarification you can provide on the process of hiring and the qualifications Mr. Whitmarsh poses for his current appointment would be most appreciated.

Specifically, we are looking for clarifications on the following:

* The process for the creation of the position of Chief Carbon Trading Advisor

* The process for Mr. Whitmarsh's initial appointment to the position of Chief Carbon Trading Advisor

* Biographical information on Mr. Whitmarsh that speaks to his professional, community or personal experience and achievements related to the job posting (attached for your reference). We are particularly interested in items relating to Mr. Whitmarsh's demonstrated policy understanding of key climate change issues and his track record on managing key cross-government projects.

* Why the hiring of the Head was not officially announced and/or biographical information provided, as is common practice on key government initiatives. We note, for example, that on the same day Mr. Whitmarsh was appointed, the Premier's Office announced the ActNow Leadership Council and provided biographical information for all the appointees.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter. We share the Premier's concern about the magnitude of the threat climate change poses and we would like to move forward in a way that allows us to communicate a level of confidence in the important work of the Climate Action Secretariat to our members, supporters and allies.

Should you require any further information please do not hesitate to contact me directly or by email.

Sincerely,

Andrea Reimer
Executive Director

encl. Copy of job posting for Head - Climate Action Secretariat

4 Comments

Must be the dog days of summer for political columnists and opinionators given this story and the one on top of it.

Yes, the dog days when a good bloodhound keeps a nostril aimed at the back door to see what the wind blows in.

I must take note of the fact Dale Steeves appears to have been forced to take a couple hits for the boss on this file.

Looks like some politico thought everyone would be asleep.

I'll bet he/she is wide awake right now too.

Gordon decides who gets the jobs. If the fellow isn't qualified, in Gordons' mind that means nothing. Because in Gordon's mind, he is never wrong

So thank you very much too all those people who took the time and effort to apply for the position under the assumption that the merit principle would apply! Bottom line - Ms McDonald will do as she is told by the Premier when it comes to hiring senior civil servants. How do you say public service leadership Ms McDonald?

But I guess we should not have expected more given that before she was hired by the Premier – with no competition – her most senior position in the civil service was as a Manager in the Lands Branch.

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