OTTAWA – A Calgary-based energy company has hired the former chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr.
Janet Annesley, who left Parliament Hill early last month, is now the senior vice-president of corporate affairs at Husky Energy, just over a year after she was last lobbied by one of its subsidiaries.
The Conflict of Interest Act prevents an ex-staffer at Annesley’s level — referred to as a former reporting public officer holder — from working for a company with which she has had “direct and significant official dealings” in the year leading up to her last day as a member of the ministerial staff.
Husky said Mary Dawson, the federal ethics watchdog, cleared the hire.
“The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s office was advised of Husky’s employment offer and then of Ms. Annesley’s acceptance of the offer,” media and issues manager Mel Duvall wrote in an email.
“The Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner’s office advised Ms. Annesley that accepting Husky’s offer would be compliant with the Act.”
Jocelyne Brisebois, a spokeswoman for Dawson, said she could not, for reasons of confidentiality, comment on the case or release a copy of the commissioner’s letter to Annesley.
Reporting public officer holders are required to tell the commissioner about firm officers of outside employment within seven days of receiving them, Brisebois said, and disclose in writing the initial decision to accept such an offer seven days after doing so.
There is no need to report after leaving office, which means the job offer and acceptance came while Annesley was still working for Carr.
According to the federal lobbyist registry, Husky Oil Operations Ltd. — a subsidiary of her new employer — last met Annesley on April 25, 2016.
Duvall said that was the last time Husky or any of its subsidiaries lobbied Annesley, who left her position with Carr on May 5 and began her new job sometime last month.
Annesley, who has years of experience in communications and lobbying for the oil industry, including with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, is prevented from dealing with Natural Resources Canada during a one-year cooling off period. She is also barred from lobbying the federal government for five years.
Duvall said both Annesley and her new employer understand the rules.
Alexandre Deslongchamps, a spokesman for Carr, said: “The rules are quite clear, and they will be respected.”
Zoe Caron, a longtime environmentalist who was most recently a policy adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, is the minister’s new chief of staff.
Duff Conacher, co-founder of the non-partisan ethics advocacy group Democracy Watch, said the rules themselves are a problem.
“It’s essentially saying you have no conflict of interest as long as the contact you have with the company or the organization was longer than a year ago,” Conacher said.
Conacher also said
The law also forbids someone like Annesley from giving advice to her employer based on things they learned in the political job that was not publicly available. Conacher said that should mean such jobs are off limits, at least until after a change in government.
“How does she unlearn what she knows — what the public doesn’t know — about the minister, the cabinet and the department she comes from?”
New Democrat MP Nathan Cullen said there is a difference between the letter and the spirit of the law.
“The idea of the revolving door from industry into a minister’s office, back into industry, is one of the things that Trudeau said he was going to clean up,” he said.
Conservative MP Blaine Calkins said it’s all part of a familiar Liberal pattern, citing the controversy over so-called ‘cash-for-access’ fundraising.
“The government does have some problems following the rules, whether it’s the rules they set for themselves, or the expectations they set for Canadians.”
— Follow @smithjoanna on Twitter