OTTAWA — The Liberals say Justin Trudeau’s national campaign co-chair did not break any ethical standards when he sent a detailed email Monday to people behind the Energy East pipeline with advice on how and when to lobby a new government — including if it happened to be a Liberal minority.
In the email, Dan Gagnier tells five people at TransCanada Corp. to target the right people in a new government as quickly as possible so they can help shape either Liberal or NDP decisions on a national energy strategy.
Such a lobbying effort would be needed to ensure the planned “in-service” dates of projects like Energy East aren’t put at risk, the email says.
Gagnier writes that getting this “early entry point” in any revisions to the rules governing the National Energy Board “is sensitive,” but also an opportunity.
“If the premiers and the new PM want investment and jobs, they will have to provide a lead and an efficient time-frame for getting this done,” he writes.
Near the end of the message, Gagnier notes that energy companies needed to act “uniformly” to work with a new government if the Conservatives lose the election on Oct. 19.
“An energy strategy for Canada is on the radar and we need a spear carrier for those in the industry who are part of the solution going forward rather than refusing to grasp the implications of a changing global reality,” reads the email, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press.
“The last point is critical as federal leadership and a discussion with premiers will take place early. This is where we can play and help them get things right.”
A Liberal spokeswoman said Gagnier’s analysis, as outlined in the email, has “nothing to do with his volunteer role on the campaign,” nor does he advise Trudeau on energy issues.
“The analysis draws on his years of experience in public service, and is based on publicly available information describing possible scenarios that any new government may face,” Zita Astravas said in an email.
“In all areas, we hold our campaign to the highest ethical standards. I would point out that both the Conservative and NDP campaigns include many consultants.”
Gagnier has spent years in politics, including time working for the Privy Council Office, the central federal bureaucracy that supports the prime minister and cabinet.
He has also worked in the federal Department of Foreign Affairs and was twice chief of staff to former Quebec premier Jean Charest.
With only five days before election day, polls have put the Liberals and Conservatives in a tight race, with the Grits in sight of forming a minority government after Oct. 19.
Under the Constitution, Prime Minister Stephen Harper still has first dibs on forming a government should there be a hung Parliament where no one party has a majority. How that would happen, or how the Liberals or NDP would transition to a new government, is the focus of much of Gagnier’s Oct. 12 email.
Gagnier also writes that a Liberal or NDP government would likely reduce the size of cabinet to about 25 ministers, which would make the finance minister a critical lobbying target.
Conservative campaign spokesman Stephen Lecce tried to link the email with past Liberal miscues, which occurred before Trudeau became an MP and, later, leader.
Lecce dismissed Trudeau and the Liberals as “a party run by elite insiders who sell their influence to the highest bidder to the detriment of taxpayers.”
The argument that anyone could have written a similar analysis doesn’t hold water, said the NDP’s ethics critic, Charlie Angus.
The email suggests Gagnier was “signalling to his friends in ‘Big Oil'” how to get in the good graces of the next government, should it not be Conservative, Angus said.
“It’s a pretty lame excuse when you say anybody could have written this…. No, this was the co-chair of Trudeau’s campaign,” Angus said.
“Anybody could have written that, but nobody would have paid attention to it if a volunteer wrote it.”
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Jordan Press, The Canadian Press