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Climate adviser's connection to pipeline lobby raises concern

Tory insider helped craft election-winning strategy

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>David McLaughlin</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

David McLaughlin

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/8/2016 (1285 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The Pallister government’s new climate change adviser will not participate in meetings involving the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association while working in Manitoba.

David McLaughlin confirmed Thursday his voluntary position as an external advisory panel member for the industry lobby group will not intersect with his time in government.

"It meets twice a year: May and November. I will not be attending or participating in the advisory panel during my (Manitoba government) tenure," McLaughlin said via social media.

'He is not known as sort of an "ultra right-wing" Tory. He is seen as more someone can comfortably swing with the red Tories and the hard C-Tories'— political analyst Chris Adams on the perception of David McLaughlin (right) 

The political heavyweight was hired by the Pallister government this month to help implement a "made-in-Manitoba" climate change plan. The hire comes just a few months after McLaughlin helped steer the Tories to victory April 19 as the Progressive Conservatives’ campaign manager.

Since 2014, McLaughlin has been a member of the panel, which has direct access to the CEPA board of directors and provides advice and assistance in determining priorities for the lobby group’s "Integrity First" program. The program’s priorities include pipeline safety, environmental protection and socio-economic practices.

Alex Paterson of the Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition, applauds McLaughlin’s record on carbon pricing — calling him an "intellectual leader" on the issue — but is concerned his ties to the pipeline lobby group may affect his approach to climate change policy.

"It is an industry lobby group designed to represent the interests of pipeline operators and I have no doubt they develop the best technology they can, but I also have no doubt it is their strategic mandate to increase the amount of pipeline capacity in Canada," Paterson said.

McLaughlin was president and chief executive officer of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy from 2007 to 2012. The advisory agency’s funding was famously cut by the Harper Conservatives after it produced "more than 10 reports promoting a carbon tax," according to then-foreign affairs minister John Baird.

The Manitoba Energy Justice Coalition is vehemently opposed to the proposed TransCanada Energy East pipeline, which would transport one million barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Saskatchewan and southwestern Manitoba to refineries in Quebec and a tidewater port in New Brunswick. The pipeline would run underneath Winnipeg’s aqueduct, which supplies the city’s drinking water from Shoal Lake on the Manitoba-Ontario border.

The province has requested intervener status in the National Energy Board review of the pipeline.

McLaughlin will receive roughly $10,000 a month until his temporary appointment expires March 31, 2017.

When asked why McLaughlin — who will commute between Winnipeg and Ottawa — was hired within the government’s priorities and planning department as opposed to as a consultant, a spokeswoman noted it was a purposefully "transparent" appointment.

"McLaughlin’s role with Manitoba’s government is a limited-engagement, focused appointment made public, purposely, via our transparent (order in council) process," said Olivia Billson. "His broad national network and intergovernmental experience will be of great value in this role."

Author and political analyst Chris Adams says to attract a heavy hitter such as McLaughlin, a prominent position and title was needed.

"He is not known as sort of an ‘ultra right-wing Tory.’ He is seen as more someone can comfortably swing with the red Tories and the hard-C Tories," Adams said. "I think he will get more co-operation with civil servants and deputy ministers, etc. I think if you’re to bring this guy back from down East, put him in an area which has authority and can offer authoritative advice to the premier — this is the way to go."

kristin.annable@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Thursday, August 18, 2016 at 7:02 PM CDT: edited, updated, new headline

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