Barbarians at the gate

One of British Columbia's leading business ethicists says law firm McCarthy Tetrault LLC should construct a so-called Chinese Wall between two of its partners - Cheryl Slusarchuk and Andrew Wilkinson. The reason: Ms. Slusarchuk is presently chairing the Campbell administration's climate action team - which will be making recommendation on how the Liberals can meet their greenhouse gas reduction targets. Meanwhile, Mr. Wilkinson has registered to lobby the government on behalf of Convanta Energy Corp. - an American renewable energy company that could conceivably be affected by those recommendations, which will be submitted to the Campbell administration for approval.

"The answer to your question is yes," said Simon Fraser University's Mark Wexler, when asked if there was a need for a Chinese Wall. "Law firms have to do this all the time. And the reason they have to do this all the time - especially large law firms - is that they're frequently working with clients who are on both sides of a problem or related to a problem with different lawyers. And so it's not uncommon that this problem would present itself. And I would suspect at a firm with as good a reputation as McCarthy-Tetrault that they would and should have some kind of means of making sure" Ms. Slusarchuk and Mr. Wilkinson aren't in conflict.

But Ms. Slusarchuk hasn't returned repeated calls specifically asking about the matter. And the government has declined repeated opportunities to comment. But New Democrat environment critic Shane Simpson didn't. "Now that we have somebody of the stature of Professor Wexler saying there should be some kind of separation in place, I think it's imperative upon the government to make some kind of comment on how they're going to ensure there isn't a perceived conflict," said Mr. Simpson.

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