News

Good connections open doors

SEAN HOLMAN

Pat Kinsella, an architect of the provincial Liberal's election success, has apparently been reaping the benefits of his close relationship with the Campbell administration.

His firm has helped win major government contracts and benefits for powerful foreign and business interests over the past five years - although Kinsella has never personally registered as a lobbyist with the B.C. government for any of those clients.

According to documents exclusively obtained by 24 hours via an access to information request with Washington State, a May 2006 contract between Kinsella's Progressive Group and Washington State boasted the firm "has strong relationships" with Campbell administration cabinet ministers Kevin Falcon, Colin Hansen and Olga Ilich.

That relationship extends to B.C. Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games secretariat president and chief executive officer Annette Antoniak and former deputy tourism, sport and the arts minister Virginia Greene.

When asked in 2004 whether he ever talks about his clients with cabinet ministers and their staffers, Kinsella said, "Absolutely not. That's an understanding that I have ... I suspect there's no one in government who would say they've ever been lobbied by me."

However, as part of his work for Washington State, Progressive's president, Mark Jiles, promised to "facilitate opportunities for Washington State to develop important relationships" with Falcon, Hansen, Ilich, Antoniak and Greene. And, if that wasn't enough, the firm stated, it is "able to engage" other "ministers."

After all, in the words of Jiles, "access to key decision makers is simply the price of admission in our business." This, according to a confidential proposedal strategy prepared for the state in October 2006.

As part of a bid to win more work with Washington, Jiles prepared a resume of Progressive's "prior and current work experience". And, according to that resume, the firm has attempted to "educate" or "convince" the government for clients such as outsourcing giant Accenture Business Services, aluminium manufacturer Alcan Inc. and the B.C. Motion Picture Production Industry Association.

Although, for his part, Jiles has denied lobbying on behalf of either Accenture or Alcan.

That resume - which was submitted before a Nov. 27, 2006, deadline - also promotes the fact Kinsella, Progressive's chairman, "was the provincial campaign chair for the B.C. Liberal Party when they swept to power in 2001 and again in 2005."

And it states both Kinsella and Jiles - the premier's former constituency campaign manager who joined Progressive after August 2005 - "both have a wealth of knowledge and contacts to support the numerous initiatives and activities that companies need to help support their business objectives."

Kinsella, who didn't respond to repeated calls, has long denied being a lobbyist.

When he founded Progressive in 1989, he was paraphrased by the Vancouver Sun as saying "lobbying ...is not in the firm's bag of tricks."

And, 15 years later, Kinsella said, "I don't consider myself a lobbyist. I hold myself up as a communications consultant. I don't do any lobbying. They don't need me to pick up a phone and talk to the provincial government or any members of the provincial government. I make it very clear to my clients that I don't do that."

Asked whether Kinsella or Jiles had met with government officials on behalf of their clients, Campbell administration spokesperson Marisa Adair stated in an email, "you'll need to FOI the calendars of the individuals."