Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister fined for unregistered lobbying
Blair Lekstrom was fined $3,000 for 3 offences under B.C.'s Lobbyists Registration Act
Former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister Blair Lekstrom has been fined $3,000 for lobbying politicians and government officials while not properly registered.
Lekstrom first signed on as a lobbyist after retiring from politics in 2013, when he joined the Chinese company HD Mining International, which made headlines for hiring 200 temporary workers from China for its coal mine in northeastern B.C.
He also lobbied for several northern towns looking for gas revenue and for Duz Cho, B.C. largest aboriginally-owned construction company, which is now a major Site C contractor with B.C. Hydro.
But Lekstrom never registered with the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for B.C. until the office was made aware of Lekstrom's lobbying efforts by media reports, and contacted Lekstrom themselves in 2015.
Lekstrom responded that he was an "in-house lobbyist" and was lobbying less than 100 hours and therefore didn't have to register. But officials told him there was no such exemption, and shortly afterwards he filed four registrations.
In the investigations that followed, the office concluded Lekstrom failed to properly register for his work as a lobbyist on three occasions before his meetings with at least one cabinet minister, one other politician and a senior government official.
Should have known better
The investigator concluded Lekstrom "subjectively believed that he did not need to register, but found he was negligent about understanding the nature of his solemn obligations under the Lobbyist Registration Act."
The errors, the investigator concluded, were not deliberate, but serious since Lekstrom, "as a former member cabinet and an experienced politician, should have known better."
The investigator also found Lekstrom's explanation "did not have any legitimate connection to the wording of the statute."
Initially Lekstrom was slapped with a total of $8,000 in fines for the three "serious" offences by the investigator.
But Lekstrom appealed and the fines were reduced to $3,000 by the Registrar of Lobbyists Elizabeth Denham, in order to keep them in line with penalties assessed on others for similar offences.
From mayor to minister
Lekstrom, a former mayor of Dawson Creek, was first elected to the Legislature in 2001 to represent the Peace River South riding in Northeastern, B.C.
He was considered a rising star in the Liberal cabinet under then-premier Gordon Campbell, and was responsible for leading the push to build the controversial Site C Hydro electric dam in his riding, and implementing the equally controversial Clean Energy Act.
But then in 2010 Lekstrom, who was B.C.'s energy minister at the time, unexpectedly resigned from cabinet and quit the Liberal Party because of public opposition to the coming HST.
He later rejoined the caucus in 2011 after Christy Clark replaced Campbell as party leader, but did not run again in the 2013 election.
With files from Betsy Trumpener