MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada’s ex-Foreign Affairs Minister appointment to Barrick raises questions

Published by MAC on 2015-04-03
Source: Toronto Now, Ottawa Citizen, The Star

John Baird Strikes Gold with Barrick

Whether former foreign affairs minister's appointment to the board of mining giant is payment for past political favours or not, it helps demonstrate corporate interests politicians serve while in office

By Sakura Saunders

31 March 2015

John Baird shocked the country this February when he abruptly announced that he was leaving his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs and member of parliament. Last week, a regulatory filing of Barrick Gold revealed that the mining giant had hired Baird to its international advisory board, headed by former prime minister Brian Mulroney, for an undisclosed amount of money.

In hindsight, it is easy to see how Baird's position as Minister of Foreign Affairs could have benefitted both Barrick and Barrick founder Peter Munk's pet project, the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

Baird has admitted to consulting Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson just one day before news of his departure from political office was known, suggesting he was manoeuvring to respect at least the letter of the law. The Conflict of Interest Act prohibits former cabinet ministers from taking a job with any firm with which they had “direct and significant” dealings within one-year of leaving office. This prohibition remains in place for two years after the minister's last day of work.

Luckily for Baird, his last meeting with Munk in Davos, Switzerland was almost one year to the day before his meeting with the ethics commissioner – a coincidence that calls into question how long Baird has been planning this move. Baird also met with former Barrick lobbyist in May 2013 to discuss "mining, international relations." On Monday, regulatory filings revealed Baird has been nominated for a position on the board of Canadian Pacific, another company with which he has had dealings in his former position as Minister of Transportation.

Regardless of technical legality, Baird's former department oversaw the transfer of millions of dollars of public monies to Barrick Gold and Munk's projects.

Under Baird's leadership, the Department of Foreign Affairs absorbed the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), a move to align CIDA's development work with Canada's commercial interests and foreign policy objectives. CIDA had earlier granted $500,000 towards a project partnering with Barrick and World Vision next to a Barrick mine in Peru. These kinds of partnerships were to be more common under CIDA's new management structure.

This January, Baird announced $9 million in federal funds for the Digital Public Square Project, a project headed by the Munk School of Global Affairs, to "increase digital space for free expression and open political dialogue in places where civil society and citizen participation are under threat." Previously, Baird's department had given $250,000 to the Munk School's Global Dialogue on the Future of Iran, a predecessor to the Digital Public Square Project, with that money going towards a conference of the same name. Interestingly, this project was criticized by many within the Iranian diaspora for deliberately leaving out Iranians "whose views on Iran do not fully concur with the positions of the Harper government," according to an open letter penned by Iranian Canadian Community Council and co-signed by seven other Iranian community groups.

Baird was a frequent supporter of the Munk School, and has made public appearances at events several times over the past few years. By comparison, it doesn't seem that Baird has made an appearance at the University of Ottawa since 2010.

Baird's foreign policies have been criticized for their selectiveness and partisanship. “While naming and shaming Iran, Baird downplayed similarly dismal [human rights] records in the Gulf States—Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain in particular,” says David Petrasek, associate professor at University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. While Baird's view may have been motivated by the Conservatives' political biases, they also favoured Barrick's objectives in the region, having recently announced a partnership with Saudi Arabia.

Whether Baird's appointment is payment for past political favours or motivated by a wealth of contacts with foreign diplomats and heads of state, his new role in the private sector should sound alarm bells.

The revolving door demonstrates whose interests politicians serve while they are in office, and their lack of concern for good timing proves that they are arrogant enough to think that there's no problem with that. Barrick's investors should also be concerned with how much of this politicking actually helps their investments, or just creates an extra layer of fat for Munk's political buddies.

Sakura Saunders is editor of and a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network.

Ethics watchdog approved jobs with Barrick Gold, Canadian Pacific: Baird

Glen McGregor

Ottawa Citizen

30 March 2015

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird has become a special international adviser to Barrick Gold Corp.

Former foreign minister John Baird says he was given the “green light” by the federal ethics commissioner to take two high-paying positions in the private sector, even though he had dealings with both companies when he served in the Conservative government’s cabinet.

Last week, Barrick Gold Corp. revealed in securities filings that Baird would join the global mining company’s advisory board on international affairs. And on Monday, Canadian Pacific filed regulatory documents that showed Baird has been nominated for a seat on the transportation giant’s board of directors.

As foreign affairs minister, Baird was personally lobbied by a representative for Barrick, less than two years before he announced he was joining the company.

Baird had been contacted by a Barrick lobbyist on May 30, 2013, with respect to “Mining, International Relations,” according to a report filed by the company’s then-president and chief executive officer, Jamie Sokalsky. (Reporting rules do not require corporations to specify which in-house lobbyist communicated with the government official.)

At the time, Barrick was lobbying Foreign Affairs over “export credit financing with respect to investment and availability of capital” and other issues.

If Canadian Pacific shareholders elect him, Baird will earn $235,000 annually, and potentially more if he chairs one of several committees of board members. As transport minister in 2009, Baird had contact with a CP lobbyist over border infrastructure issues.

Baird could not be reached for comment but in a message posted on Twitter on Monday, he wrote, “I consulted the Ethics Commissioner before joining Barrick and before accepting CP’s invitation to serve on their Board. Got the green light.”

Federal ethics commissioner Mary Dawson’s office confirmed she consulted with Baird about his post-employment obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act but would not say anything more about the discussion.

The conflict of interest law, which Baird himself helped shepherd into law as part of the reforms of the Federal Accountability Act in 2006, prohibits former cabinet ministers from taking a job with any firm with which they had “direct and significant” dealings within a one-year period before they left office.

The prohibition remains in place for two years after the minister’s last day on the job.

That means Baird’s last reported contact with Barrick came eight months before the beginning of that one-year period preceding his resignation on Feb. 3. Because the contact with Barrick came more than a year ago, Baird does not have to wait out a cooling-off period before joining the company.

Baird had also been contacted by Barrick twice in 2012 on the same issue and once in 2010, in his capacity as an MP, according to reports filed by the company with the lobbying commissioner.

Baird’s last day as the MP for Ottawa West-Nepean came March 16. Barrick Gold announced on Friday that he and former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich have joined its 10-member advisory board.

In 2012, Dawson’s office investigated contacts between Barrick Gold and the prime minister’s then-chief of staff, Nigel Wright, regarding the company’s mining operations in Argentina. Wright had a personal connection to the company through founder Peter Munk’s son, Anthony. Dawson later discontinued the investigation, saying she had found no evidence Wright had contravened the Conflict of Interest Act.

Barrick Gold is still registered to lobby Baird’s former ministry on the same issues, though Sokalsky has since left company.

According to the company’s lobbying declaration, it was also lobbying Foreign Affairs over “partnerships with the Canadian International Development Agency under the Agency’s policy approach to the role of the private sector and extractives and development.”

CIDA is now part of Baird’s former department.

As Treasury Board president in 2006, Baird was the government’s point man on a series of legislative changes intended to reform ethics in the government under the umbrella of the Federal Accountability Act. Among them was set a strict five-year cooling off period for people leaving government before they could take jobs as lobbyists.

Under that rule, Baird would be prohibited from lobbying the federal government on behalf of the company.

John Baird’s appointment to Barrick job raises questions

Former foreign minister also up for big job at Canadian Pacific.

Les Whittington Ottawa Bureau reporter

The Star Canada

30 March 2015

OTTAWA—John Baird’s appointment to a high-level job at a global mining giant that lobbied him when he was foreign affairs minister is raising questions about the rules governing employment for former public office holders.

Baird, who announced last month that he was stepping down from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet and leaving politics, has been hired as an international adviser by Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.

While Baird was in charge of foreign affairs, Barrick sent a lobbyist to discuss international relations, mining and trade with him several times — most recently in May 2013. Barrick, the world’s leading gold company, has extensive mining operations in the Americas and South Pacific.

“What’s disturbing here is we’re seeing this revolving door between very key industries and the cabinet,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus. “And the lobbying act doesn’t cover this kind of movement because people are being hired as advisers, not lobbyists.”

But people like Baird are not hired to explain industry positions to the government as a lobbyist would do, Angus said. “You hire John Baird because he knows people in government; you hire him to make the call if you need that.” But government, he said, is not supposed to be about “who you know in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).”

Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said Barrick stands to be helped by the Harper government’s promotion of mining and other international economic activity. “This appointment raises serious ethical questions that must be answered by this government,” she said.

Baird has also been nominated to join the board of directors of Canadian Pacific, he confirmed Monday. The job pays $235,000 annually.

Baird could not be reached for comment but tweeted: “I consulted the Ethics Commissioner before joining Barrick and before accepting CP’s invitation to serve on their Board. Got the green light.”

A spokesperson for Mary Dawson, the federal ethics watchdog, confirmed Baird had “consulted the commissioner with respect to his post-employment obligations.” Under conflict-of-interest rules, which Baird helped guide into law, former cabinet ministers cannot take employment with a company with which they have had “significant” dealings during the year before they left office.

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