Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil is defending his campaign manager's right to lobby his government on behalf of an Ontario company interested in the potential outsourcing of three provincial government registries.
"Every Nova Scotian can register to represent anyone who wants to do business with the government that has taken place," McNeil said Wednesday.
Chris MacInnes managed McNeil's 2013 election victory.
For the past year, MacInnes and his firm Group M5 have lobbied the Liberal government on behalf of Teranet Inc., an Ontario outsourcing firm that has won multi-decade contracts to operate and collect fees from provincial land and property registries in Ontario and Manitoba.
Those deals saw an up-front payment from the company of $1 billion to the Ontario government and $75 million to Manitoba.
This summer, the cash-strapped Nova Scotia government announced it was looking at "alternate service delivery models" for its Motor Vehicle, Land and Joints Stocks [business] registries.
"Alternate service delivery" is government speak for privatization or outsourcing.
Outsourcing decision not yet made
Last week, Service Nova Scotia Minister Mark Furey said MacInnes introduced him to Teranet officials last summer shortly after it became known in other provinces that Nova Scotia was exploring privatization.
McNeil says a final decision has not been made.
"We may find at the end of this exercise that there will be no change, that the service delivery that we have is the right one. But I do believe we, as government, have a responsibility to look at all service delivery models to make sure it is the most effective way to deliver services to Nova Scotians.
"It's up to those who want to deliver those services to hire whoever they wish to make their case, but we will be making what is the best decision for taxpayers of Nova Scotia," he said.
Both Teranet and Chris MacInnes have not responded to requests for comment.
Since the election, in addition to Teranet MacInnes and his company have also been hired by Louisbourg Seafoods and Lafarge Canada. In January 2013, Shoppers Drug Mart hired MacInnes. Those files are active.
In 2008, on behalf of another firm, he lobbied for Showbizz Promotions.
Another Group M5 Liberal Jamie MacNeil is also actively lobbying the province for a number of organizations — including the Nova Scotia Nurses Union who hired him to represent them as the Liberal government attempted to restructure health union bargaining units.