Former foreign minister also up for big job at Canadian Pacific.
OTTAWA—John Baird’s appointment to a high-level job at a global mining giant that lobbied him when he was foreign affairs minister is raising questions about the rules governing employment for former public office holders.
Baird, who announced last month that he was stepping down from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinet and leaving politics, has been hired as an international adviser by Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp.
While Baird was in charge of foreign affairs, Barrick sent a lobbyist to discuss international relations, mining and trade with him several times — most recently in May 2013. Barrick, the world’s leading gold company, has extensive mining operations in the Americas and South Pacific.
“What’s disturbing here is we’re seeing this revolving door between very key industries and the cabinet,” said NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus. “And the lobbying act doesn’t cover this kind of movement because people are being hired as advisers, not lobbyists.”
But people like Baird are not hired to explain industry positions to the government as a lobbyist would do, Angus said. “You hire John Baird because he knows people in government; you hire him to make the call if you need that.” But government, he said, is not supposed to be about “who you know in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office).”
Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians, said Barrick stands to be helped by the Harper government’s promotion of mining and other international economic activity. “This appointment raises serious ethical questions that must be answered by this government,” she said.
Baird has also been nominated to join the board of directors of Canadian Pacific, he confirmed Monday. The job pays $235,000 annually.
Baird could not be reached for comment but tweeted: “I consulted the Ethics Commissioner before joining Barrick and before accepting CP’s invitation to serve on their Board. Got the green light.”
A spokesperson for Mary Dawson, the federal ethics watchdog, confirmed Baird had “consulted the commissioner with respect to his post-employment obligations.” Under conflict-of-interest rules, which Baird helped guide into law, former cabinet ministers cannot take employment with a company with which they have had “significant” dealings during the year before they left office.