Good connections open doors

Patrick Kinsella, an architect of the provincial Liberals' election success, has apparently been reaping the benefits of his close relationship with the Campbell administration. His firm, The Progressive Group, has helped win major government contracts and benefits for powerful corporate and foreign interests over the past five years - although Mr. Kinsella has never personally registered as a lobbyist for any of those clients.

According to records exclusively obtained by Public Eye via an access to information request with Washington State, a May 2006 contract between Mr. Kinsella's company and Washington State boasted the firm has strong relationships with Campbell administration cabinet ministers Kevin Falcon, Colin Hansen and Olga Ilich.

Those relationships extended to BC Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games secretariat president and chief executive officer Annette Antoniak and then deputy tourism, sport and the arts minister Virginia Greene.

When asked in 2004 whether he ever talks about his clients with cabinet ministers and their staffers, Mr. Kinsella said, "Absolutely not. That's an understanding that I have...I suspect there's no one in government who would say they've ever been lobbied by me."

But, as part of the company's work for Washington State, Progressive's president, Mark Jiles, promised to "facilitate opportunities for Washington State to develop important relationships" with Ministers Falcon, Hansen and Ilich, as well as Mses. Antoniak and Greene. And, if that wasn t enough, the firm stated, it was "able to engage" other "ministers."

After all, in the words of Mr. Jiles, "access to key decision makers is simply the price of admission in our business." This, according to a confidential proposed strategy prepared for the state in October 2006.

In his bid to win more work with Washington, Mr. Jiles prepared a resume of Progressive's "prior and current work experience." And, according to that resume, the firm has attempted to "educate" or "convince" the government for clients such as outsourcing giant Accenture Business Services, aluminium manufacturer Alcan Inc. and the British Columbia Motion Picture Production Industry Association. Although, for his part, Mr. Jiles has denied lobbying on behalf of either Accenture or Alcan.

That resume - which was submitted before a November 27, 2006 deadline - also promotes the fact Mr. Kinsella, Progressive's chairman, "was the provincial campaign chair for the B.C. Liberal Party when they swept to power in 2001 and again in 2005."

And it states Messers. Kinsella and Jiles - the premier's former constituency campaign manager who joined Progressive after August 2005 - "both have a wealth of knowledge and contacts to support the numerous initiatives and activities that companies need to help support their business objectives."

Mr. Kinsella, who didn't respond to an email and repeated calls to his office, has long denied being a lobbyist. When he founded Progressive in 1989, he was paraphrased by The Vancouver Sun's Judy Lindsay as saying "lobbying...is not in the firm's bag of tricks."

And, 15 years later, Mr. Kinsella said, "I don't consider myself a lobbyist. I hold myself up as a communications consultant. I don t do any lobbying. They don't need me to pick up a phone and talk to the provincial government or any members of the provincial government. I make it very clear to my clients that I don t do that."

Asked whether Messers. Kinsella or Jiles had met with government officials on behalf of their clients, Campbell administration spokesperson Marisa Adair stated in an email, "you'll need to FOI the calendars of the individuals."

Under the Lobbyists Registration Act, consultant lobbyists are required to sign-up if they, for pay, communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence government - although there are some exceptions to that rule. But consultants must always register if they, for pay, arrange a meeting with an office holder and another "person."

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Accenture Business Services

Progressive's resume states the firm had a hand in winning the province's most controversial privatization contract. On February 28, 2003, the government signed a $1.45 billion deal with Accenture to privatize BC Hydro Corp.'s back-office services.

Progressive's resume states the outsourcing giant approached the firm in 2003 to help Accenture identify "business opportunities in Canada and specifically with the province of B.C."

At the time, Progressive "interviewed a number of stakeholders in the B.C. Government and B.C. Crown Corporations and determined that the best opportunity for Accenture was with B.C. Hydro."

Then, as part of its effort for Accenture to "promote and educate the B.C. government of the value of outsourcing a number of key government services," Progressive worked with the company to develop a "comprehensive marketing plan" and a "very broad government-relations plan" that resulted in the privatization deal.

Progressive s contract with Accenture lasted from "January 2003 to January 2008."

Mr. Kinsella hasn't registered as a lobbyist for Accenture. And, in an email, Mr. Jiles stated he has never been employed as a lobbyist for the company.

Accenture Canada communications director Meg Sintzel said her company has used Progressive for "strategic counsel" but not for lobbying activities.

Continued Ms. Sintzel, "We use, in our normal course, third party contractors to consult on business matters. So, if we're going into new markets of that nature, we would hire and retain local experts to give us strategic counsel but not to speak on our behalf."

Washington State

Progressive had two contracts with the state: the first to "identify" and "assist in securing" business opportunities for Washington companies; the second "to represent and advance Washington s interests in relation to the 2010 Winter Games and Paralympic Winter Games by providing strategic marketing and business development services."

As part of the first contract, Progressive's resume reports the firm "worked with a number of key stakeholders who could assist Washington State with their issues" including intergovernmental affairs deputy minister Ms. Greene and BC Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games secretariat president and chief executive officer Ms. Antoniak.

"The outcome of this strategy was very positive," with Ms. Antoniak recommending "Washing (sic) State join the B.C. regional tourism association to establish better dialogue" between the two jurisdictions.

In an interview with Public Eye, Ms. Greene recalls meeting with Mr. Jiles and Washington community, trade and economic development 2010 program manager Mary Rose on two occasions. She couldn t recall if Mr. Kinsella attended those meetings - "although he might have been present."

"The primary thrust of what I understood (Messers. Jiles and Kinsella) to be doing is how (Washington State) can become involved in 2010 and how their tourism industry might participate with our tourism industry to leverage the crowds that are coming for the games. And that was the focus of the discussion," she said.

Progressive continued meeting with British Columbia officials as part of its second contract. In an update submitted to Ms. Rose on April 30, 2007, Mr. Jiles wrote Progressive worked with "Representatives from Premier Campbell s office" and "participated in a number of meetings and conference calls to discuss potential topics and announcements arising from the upcoming meetings" between Washington and British Columbia's cabinets.

The first contract earned Progressive $36,000 between May and September, 2006. The second earned the company $32,496 between January and June, 2007. Neither Messers. Kinsella nor Jiles registered as lobbyists for the state. In an email, Mr. Jiles wrote that his involvement with Washington "was around sports marketing." The state didn't respond to a request for comment.

Alcan

Progressive's resume states the firm was contracted by Alcan (now called Rio Tinto Alcan) between January 2005 and January 2006 to promote and educate the provincial government of the value of allowing Alcan to increase the size of its smelter operations in Kitimat.

In June 2006, British Columbia approved Alcan's request to increase the size of its smelter. The announcement of that modernization plan, which happened on August 14, 2006, was accompanied by the announcement of a power purchase agreement between Alcan and BC Hydro.

The agreement, which was struck down by the British Columbia Utilities Commission, would have seen the Crown corporation buy surplus energy from the smelter at what some described as "sweetheart" rates.

A revised agreement was approved by the commission in January.

Mr. Jiles, in an email, stated he has never been employed as a lobbyist for the company. And Mr. Kinsella has denied being a lobbyist for Alcan in the past. In November 2006, writing in Report on Business magazine, Konrad Yakabuski quoted Alcan as saying Mr. Kinsella simply has a mandate to provide the company with strategic communications advice.

Motion Picture Industry Association of British Columbia

In January 2005, the Campbell administration announced tax breaks for the film industry, which cost $45 million annually according to a report prepared for the government.

A year later, Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen told Canada's Broadcast and Production Journal, "I think it would be very difficult for the industry to ask for an extension on tax credits" which were scheduled to expire in March 2006 - "until they've done everything they committed to when we agreed to raise the tax credits. They have made some measures, but they have a ways to go."

But, at the time Minister Hansen gave that interview, Progressive was already working for the British Columbia Motion Picture Production Industry Association (now the Motion Picture Industry Association of British Columbia) "to convince the provincial government to extend the foreign tax credits" - which the firm's resume values at $65 million.

That two-year extension was granted in January, 2006 - a decision Progressive claims responsibility for.

The resume also states Progressive has been responsible for the "long-term certainty and viability of these tax credits for the benefit of American film companies and the local industry" as part of its contract with the association.

Since those words were written, the Campbell administration has extended and enhanced those tax breaks.

Progressive's resume lists its contract with the association as starting in March 2005 and ending two years later.

Kinsella hasn't registered as a lobbyist for the association. As for Mr. Jiles, he signed-up on December 1, 2007, under the name of his own company Bluestone Ltd. - which has the same address as Progressive according to the registry.

In an interview with Public Eye, association chair Peter Leitch said Mr. Jiles has been the industry's "government relations person" for the "last four years." And, according to him, "he also does work for us on a municipal, federal level also."

Mr. Leitch agreed that work has included Mr. Jiles communicating with ministers and scheduling meetings on behalf of the association.

"He just knows the politicians, and we like his style a lot," Mr. Leitch explained. "He gets to understand and learn about our industry. And it's just about building those relationships, which I think are important in terms of communication. One of the things I think we didn't do before is have a constant dialogue with government to keep it apprised of what was happening in the industry and the changes. So Mark just makes sure we have those meetings and the exchange of information and dialogue."

Mr. Leitch wasn't able to say why Mr. Jiles hadn't registered earlier. And, as for Mr. Kinsella, the association chair said he hasn't worked with him directly. Mr. Leitch said Mr. Jiles's work has generally been through Bluestone. In an email, Mr. Jiles stated "Patrick doesn't act for [the association] only I do."

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