Job ban waived for province's top mining bureaucrat

British Columbia's top mining bureaucrat will take a job leading a mining lobby group after a provincial official waived a government guideline that would have required her to wait a year to make such a move. The head of the province's, Lynda Tarras, has the authority to waive the internal guideline. But she kept in place a restriction that will prevent Karina Brino, an assistant deputy minister, from lobbying the provincial government for a one-year period. Ms. Brino declined through a government spokesperson to comment on the matter.

Ms. Tarras decided last year that some of the guidelines didn't apply when the government's top oil and gas bureaucrat took a senior post at the Canadian subsidiary of a firm based in Houston, Texas, that is developing natural gas reserves in northeastern British Columbia.

Ms. Brino - a 16-year civil service veteran - has been the assistant deputy minister of the mines and mineral resources division since November, 2010. She previously served as an executive director at the ministry of energy and mines.

Last month, deputy minister Steve Carr advised department staff in an internal e-mail that Ms. Brino would leave on July 15 to become the president and chief executive officer of the Mining Association of British Columbia effective on Aug. 1.

According to government guidelines, senior bureaucrats must wait a year after leaving the public service before they can be hired by an "outside entity" with which they have had substantial involvement during the year immediately preceding the end of their employment.

In a June 9 letter to Ms. Brino, Ms. Tarras said she concluded the assistant deputy minister did have substantial involvement with the association.

But the head used her authority to grant Ms. Tarras's May 20 request for that guideline to be waived after finding "there is no evidence that you levered your position as an ADM with the Ministry of Energy and Mines to secure this position, and that this move fits with your own personal goals from both a family and a career development perspective."

However, Ms. Tarras made Ms. Brino subject to other restrictions, including a one-year ban from lobbying the government. Those restrictions will also prohibit her from counselling an outside entity with which she has had substantial involvement "for its commercial purposes" about mining programs or policies for a year.

A government spokesperson said Ms. Brino's work at the association won't violate the latter restriction because she is not going to a commercial organization. The spokesperson also said those restrictions have been built into Ms. Brino's new employment contract.

"Respecting the agreements that have been reached between her and government is our responsibility," added the association's acting president and chief executive officer, Zoe Younger.

"So in the areas where there are restrictions, we'll be very respectful of those restrictions that are defined by the province and through that employment contract."

In 2010, Gordon Goodman, the assistant deputy minister of the ministry's oil and gas division, contacted the to ask if he would be in a conflict with the government's post-employment guidelines if he became EOG Canada Inc.'s health, safety and environment manager without waiting for a year after leaving the government.

In April of that year, Ms. Tarras concluded Mr. Goodman's dealings with the company - which included approving two royalty reduction applications in 2009 - "were not substantive enough to have resulted in a competitive advantage for this organization and, therefore, accepting this position is not a violation of the restrictions."

The province later stressed that those approvals, which government staff had reviewed and recommended, were among hundreds involving Mr. Goodman.

In an interview, the managing director of IntegrityBC - a non-partisan organization advocating greater accountability in government - said Ms. Brino's waiver shows how inadequate British Columbia's post-employment restrictions are in comparison with those of other jurisdictions.

"If the government is going to have guidelines, they have to be worth the paper they're printed on," Dermod Travis said. "And the minute you can provide waivers for what is a ridiculously short cooling-off period of time, you're simply conveying the guidelines are meaningless."

Ms. Brino succeeds Pierre Gratton as the head of the Mining Association of British Columbia. Mr. Gratton stepped aside earlier this year to become president and chief executive officer of the Mining Association of Canada.

The following is a complete copy of Ms. Tarras's decision concerning Ms. Brino, as well as the assistant deputy minister's resignation letter.

Karina Brino's resignation letter and waiver

1 Comment

Way back when, the rule was two years. Under the Liberals it's pretty well as soon as a friend leaves the front door of the government building. Rules don't exist if you are on side

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