Look who’s lobbying for the struggling newspaper industry.
British Columbia biggest daily and weekly publishers have hired a key member of the BC Liberals’ 2013 re-election campaign in a last-ditch effort to change Environment Minister Mary Polak’s mind about the imposition of a hidden tax on newsprint.
Dimitri Pantazopoulos registered to lobby Polak on behalf of Pacific Newspaper Group, Black Press and Glacier Media from April 7 to May 7. The Maple Leaf Strategies partner’s registration with the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists for B.C. says his objective is “recognition that newspapers are unique in relation to extended producer responsibility and finding a solution that reduces the cost of the (printed paper and packaging) regulation to newspaper producers.”
When Premier Christy Clark and the BC Liberals amended recycling regulations in May 2011, they did not include a requirement for producers to disclose the fees on printed paper and packaging to consumers. Multi Material B.C., which is overseen by executives of corporations like Walmart, Procter and Gamble and Tim Hortons, is scheduled to take over the province’s recycling system on May 19 and will charge producers a 20 cents-per-kilogram fee on newsprint.
Newspaper publishers estimate it will cost their industry $10 million a year. Newspapers Canada CEO John Hinds fears the fees will force more community newspaper closures and the loss of 300 to 500 jobs.
Toronto-based Postmedia, owner of B.C.’s biggest daily publisher PNG, donated $10,000 to the Liberals on Oct. 17, 2013, five months after its Province newspaper endorsed Clark over Adrian Dix and the NDP in the 2013 election. For the quarter ended Feb. 28, Postmedia reported a $25.3-million loss because of continuing declines in print advertising and circulation.
Pantazopoulos, a former Rob Ford and Stephen Harper advisor, moved to B.C. to be Clark’s principal secretary in April 2011. She promoted him to assistant deputy minister of intergovernmental relations before he took leave of absence to work on the BC Liberals’ re-election campaign. Pantazopoulos took credit for polls that predicted the surprise May 2013 win over the NDP, but has not published his detailed methodology or data. The week after the election, he resigned to become a lobbyist. His Maple Leaf office is on the fourth floor of the World Trade Centre at Canada Place, three floors down from Clark’s Vancouver cabinet office.
Pantazopoulos, however, will be competing for attention with two former Clark aides who are in MMBC’s corner.
Former Clark executive assistant Gabe Garfinkel quit government on Oct. 25, 2013 to join Fleishman Hillard where his lobbying clients include a mix of biopharma and energy corporations. Garfinkel’s MMBC lobbying undertaking began Dec. 2, 2013 and runs until Dec. 31, 2014. His stated plan is “ongoing discussions to provide program updates.”
Steve Kukucha, a partner in Liberal-allied Wazuku Advisory Group, has a more complex assignment with MMBC. Kukucha was the so-called “wagon master” of Clark’s campaign this time last year, managing her media plane and bus. His lobbyist registration lists Clark, deputy minister Neil Sweeney, Polak and aide Matt Mitschke as lobbying targets for “assisting with issues around implementation of MMBC mandate.”
Since the Liberals won, Kukucha has gained eight lobbying clients. Last month, he registered for Quebec alternative energy company Enerkem and tire recycler Crumb Rubber Manufacturers Co. In February, he effectively took over from ex-federal Tory cabinet minster Chuck Strahl as a key lobbyist for pipeline company Enbridge.
Strahl registered Dec. 6, 2013 to set-up meetings between Enbridge and deputy premier Rich Coleman through June 6, but quit prematurely on Feb. 12. The Vancouver Observer revealed the previous month that Strahl was lobbying for the Northern Gateway Pipeline proponent while serving as the chair of the Security Intelligence Review Committee, the watchdog for Canada’s federal spy service.
Kukucha began his Enbridge lobbying gig on Feb. 20, naming Clark, Coleman, Polak, Energy Minister Bill Bennett and Aboriginal Affairs minister John Rustad as his targets. Also named on his file are Sweeney, Clark’s chief-of-staff Dan Doyle and deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario.
Kukucha donated $9,915 to the Liberals since 2005, of which $6,100 was in his former role as an executive with Ballard Power. Wazuku donated $8,275 in 2012 and 2013 to the Liberals.
North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since he began as a journalist in 1990.
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