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This article was published 2/12/2015 (1548 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA – Manitoba cabinet minister Jim Carr is defending his decision to hire a former energy lobbyist as his chief of staff.
Janet Annesley was hired last week to head up Carr’s new cabinet office, which has a mandate to review Canada’s environmental assessment process of major projects such as pipelines and to modernize the National Energy Board.
Until last January, Annesley worked for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. She spent five years as CAPP’s director of communications and two years as vice-president of CAPP for Ottawa and Eastern/Atlantic Canada. Before that she spent almost a decade working in various communications roles for Shell Oil in Calgary.
Since January she has been the director of government and institutional relations for Queen’s University.
Carr said she is a great person for the job of chief of staff.
"She’s smart, qualified and has a broad understanding of the issues facing the department, and we welcome her," Carr told reporters on his way into the Liberal caucus meeting Wednesday morning. "She has a very deep experience in the industry."
Carr said he has no concerns that her background in the oil industry contradicts or will harm the Liberal government’s goals on clean energy development or emissions reductions.
"She is loyal to the mandate, and the mandate letter from the Prime Minister to me is very clear about modernizing the National Energy Board, about the sustainability of way in which we move resources to market, so I’m very comfortable," Carr said.
Conservative Natural Resources Critic Candice Bergen said her initial reaction is that having someone with Annesley’s background is a good thing but the hire is something to keep an eye on.
"It will remain to be seen if it’s a positive move overall or not," she told the Free Press.
She said the Liberals have to ensure they aren’t using energy policy to pick winners and losers, and that having someone who was tight with big oil not long ago might mean "Minister Carr may now be too close for comfort" with big oil.
Brent Patterson, political director at the Council of Canadians, wrote in a blog this morning that he is concerned someone with such strong ties to the oil sector will have such a major influence in the department of Natural Resources.
"With Keystone XL officially derailed and Northern Gateway most likely not to proceed, will Annesley be a strong advocate inside government for the Energy East and Trans Mountain pipelines despite their environmental consequences," Patterson wrote.
The Council of Canadians is one of the lobby groups which wants the pipeline projects all halted and most of the bitumen in the oil sands to remain in the ground.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised in the election to do a full review and overhaul of the environmental assessment process although Carr recently told energy executives in Calgary that pipelines already midway through the assessment process won’t have to start over when the regulations and assessment process is updated.
The previous Harper government was criticized for being too cozy with big oil at the expense of the environment.