Lawyer who advised opposition lobbied health critic

A lawyer who has given legal counsel to the New Democratic Party caucus, and whose firm has a relationship with the NDP opposition, also lobbied the party's health critic. John Heaney was a deputy minister when the New Democrats were in power. In 2007, he joined the law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP, which, Mr. Heaney said, has had a limited retainer with the opposition caucus for the past two years. The firm is also on retainer with the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association. Last November, Mr. Heaney registered to lobby the health critic, Adrian Dix, on behalf of the trade group.

Mr. Dix is expected to announce Monday that he will run for the leadership of the provincial New Democrats. Contacted last week about the lobbying record, he said he will call for the caucus to rethink its relationship with Mr. Heaney and Heenan Blaikie.

In a written statement, Mr. Heaney said the situation accords with the Law Society of British Columbia's rules, since his lobbying and the work he does for caucus is "unrelated" and "not adverse in interest."

At the time of the lobbying, Mr. Dix said he was aware Mr. Heaney had previously worked for the opposition - although he didn't think about whether a retainer was in place.

Mr. Dix stressed that Mr. Heaney "did everything he could to comply with the law. Nonetheless, I think it would probably make some sense for us to either end the retainer or for John not to engage in any kind of registered lobbying with NDP members," Mr. Dix said.

The health critic said he would discuss the situation with caucus chair Kathy Corrigan.

A caucus spokesperson stated that Mr. Heaney's work has mostly involved providing legal counsel on human resource issues. Mr. Heaney said he is not the only Heenan Blaikie lawyer who has done work for the opposition.

Mr. Heaney's lobbyists registry file states that he was to arrange a meeting between the health critic and his client, the Canadian Generic Pharmaceutical Association. Mr. Dix, who says he also wanted the meeting, said Mr. Heaney attended it as well.

Mr. Dix said he wanted to speak with the trade group about the price of generic drugs in British Columbia - having proposed further cuts to the price of those medicines. The health critic said his position is "probably not something" the association "would be supportive of, I would guess. So that was the main subject for me."

Mr. Dix stated that "it didn't occur to me it was a problem" at the time the lobbying took place. "And it didn't seem to me John was working for caucus." Although the MLA latter added he was "aware he did work for us in the past."

"So I wouldn't have been surprised he was on retainer at that point," he continued. "But I didn't really think about it. I was focused on meeting with the group."

A caucus spokesperson declined to disclose how much Heenan Blaikie has billed the opposition.

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