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Canada's Liberals Knew Their Campaign Co-Chair Worked for Pipeline Company

A Liberal campaign co-chair stepped down after the Canadian Press reported that he had advised TransCanada on how to lobby the government if the NDP or the Liberals won the Canadian election on Oct. 19.
October 15, 2015, 11:20pm
Image for VICE Canada, by Anthony Tuccitto

Canada's Liberal party knew Dan Gagnier was working as co-chair of the Liberal campaign while he worked as a consultant for major pipeline company TransCanada.

The business relationship between Gagnier and TransCanada has been ongoing since the spring, the company told VICE News Thursday. The Liberals told VICE News they knew Gagnier was advising TransCanada on provincial issues while he was their campaign co-chair.

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Gagnier stepped down as Liberal campaign co-chair Wednesday after the Canadian Press reported that he had advised TransCanada on how to lobby the government if the NDP or the Liberals won the Canadian election on Oct. 19.

Gagnier told TransCanada to start lobbying the government immediately after the election to ensure their controversial pipeline proposal Energy East would be completed on time.

"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," Gagnier reportedly wrote to five staff at the pipeline company.

"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," Gagnier's email read.

Related: Leading in the Polls, Liberal Campaign Tells Canadian Oil Company How to Lobby

When the news broke Wednesday, it raised questions about how the Liberals would manage the energy file in Canada if elected, with NDP leader Thomas Mulcair saying they could try to hide "behind a fresh face, but it is the same old Liberal Party."

"They are all about helping themselves," Mulcair said Thursday. "… It's an extraordinary opportunity for everyone in Canada, including those here in Quebec, that this is the same old Liberal Party of the sponsorship scandal."

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In 2004 it was revealed that a program overseen by Jean Chretien's Liberals paid public funds to Liberal-affiliated advertising firms. The sponsorship scandal is often credited with leading to the Liberal defeat and Conservative win in the 2006 election.

Initially on Wednesday the Liberal party said Gagnier was an unpaid volunteer who did not break any ethical rules. The party then took shots at the Conservatives. But on Thursday, the Liberals changed their tune when leader Justin Trudeau called Gagnier's actions "inappropriate."

VICE News asked the Liberal Party several times Thursday whether the party looked at Gagnier's resume before hiring him, and whether the party was aware that he was a consultant for TransCanada.

Liberal spokesperson Cameron Ahmad said the fact TransCanada was a client of Gagnier's was publicly known prior to the election.

"Mr. Gagnier informed the Liberal campaign that he was advising his client, TransCanada, on issues related to the provincial Quebec government," Ahmad wrote in an email. "When it became clear that Mr. Gagnier was advising his client on federal transition issues, we took the steps that we did."

Trudeau said Thursday that Gagnier had not shaped or contributed to the Liberal energy policy.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter@hilarybeaumont