A B.C. MLA has tabled a bill introducing a cooling-off period for outgoing politicians from taking board positions or employment immediately after leaving politics – something that would have prevented a former premier from taking on a new job 24 hours after resigning.
BC Green Leader Sonia Furstenau tabled the Members’ Conflict of Interest Amendment Act, noting the bill would introduce a cooling-off period for former officials like it currently exits in federal politics.
“The amendments also permit former members to apply to the conflict-of-interest commissioner for an exemption, which the commissioner can grant if they are satisfied that the public interest is protected,” she explained.
For former MLAs, the cooling-off period would be 12 months, for former ministers like Horgan, it would be 24 months. Those caught violating the act would also have to pay $50,000 instead of $5,000.
It’s something that would have prevented former premier John Horgan from being able to join the board of a resource company the day after resigning as MLA. Horgan had officially resigned as MLA for the Langford-Juan de Fuca riding on March 31.
The move — which many considered an April Fool’s Day joke — renewed questions about the appropriateness of ties between B.C.’s dominant natural resource sector and the provincial political elite, with Horgan having served as premier for more than five years.
Furstenau introduced the bill, which sits at first reading, on April 20, some 19 days after Horgan announced that he would be sitting on the board of a company to be spun off from Teck Resources, called Elk Valley Resources to make metallurgical steel.
Furstenau acknowledged that Horgan’s move was totally legal.
“There is nothing that prevents that in British Columbia,” she said, noting it does raise questions about Horgan’s orientation for service.
Horgan’s future role does not make him a lobbyist per se and he is free to work after his political career, but critics say his move nonetheless feeds the larger perception that politicians are using their connections to enrich themselves in trading on their insider knowledge.
While Teck Resources has since pulled plans to create Elk Valley Resources while battling a hostile take-over bid from Glencore, Horgan’s announcement prompted no small measure of outrage among environmentalists but also ethics experts.
In 2017, then-attorney general David Eby introduced a cooling off period for certain public office holders. Former cabinet ministers and their staff, former parliamentary secretaries and former senior officials in government departments and Crown corporations are prohibited from lobbying for two years after the date on which they left office.