Not a moment too soon

By law, former provincial ministers are, in effect, prohibited from lobbying the government for 24 months after leaving cabinet. And that's exactly how long it was from the time Rick Thorpe left cabinet to when was registered to begin lobbying the Campbell administration on behalf of a subsidiary of Canada's largest investor-owned gas and electric utility company.

Three months ago, while visiting the legislature, the ex-small business and revenue minister - who didn't seek re-election in 2009 - told us, "I made a choice when I left politics to leave politics and I'm enjoying myself in Arizona." This, when asked if he had been doing any political organizing relating to the harmonized sales tax

But, as we later found out, he did suggest his friend, British Columbia Restaurant Association president and chief executive officer Ian Tostenson, should moderate the industry's opposition to the HST.

And now we've learned Mr. Thorpe - who left cabinet on June 23, 2008 - registered as a lobbyist for electric utility FortisBC Inc. effective June 23, 2010.

FortisBC is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., which also owns Terasen Inc.

Mr. Thorpe, who didn't respond to phone and email messages requesting comment, has a number of connections to the company.

Harry McWatters, his former constituency association president, serves on the board of directors for Fortis, FortisBC and Terasen.

Last year, FortisBC was also the gold sponsor for a charitable fundraiser celebrating Thorpe's "many years of service and generosity to our province." Proceeds went toward the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Scholarship fund.

According to Mr. Thorpe's lobbyist registration filing, he's contacting staff in the finance minister and energy, mines and petroleum resources ministers' offices to arrange meetings "between an individual and a public office holder."

He's also arranging a similar "possible" meeting with Partnerships British Columbia chief executive officer Larry Blain. Last month, the government quietly appointed Blain to BC Hydro Corp.'s board of directors.

In an email, FortisBC corporate communications specialist Marnie Douglas said she couldn't disclose the purpose of Mr. Thorpe's lobbying efforts as "those discussions are confidential."

That being said, she stated it is "very important for our customers and the Province that we communicate with government and Crown corporations about energy solutions and energy policy, and in some cases provide our input on the government decisions that need to be made regarding energy policy."

Ms. Douglas also added, "By registering our communications with government and Crown corporations that fall within the legal definition of 'lobbying,' FortisBC is complying with our legal obligations and demonstrating our commitment to transparency."

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