Jim Rutkowski, a senior aide to Brian Topp in the recent federal NDP leadership, joined the Victoria office of Hill + Knowlton Strategies last month and is currently representing Port Metro Vancouver in efforts to build a relationship with the opposition NDP.
Records at the B.C. Lobbyists Registry, released this week, indicate Mr. Rutkowski was planning to arrange for officials from the federal Crown corporation to meet with NDP transportation critic Harry Bains.
Duncan Wilson, of Port Metro Vancouver, said the federal Crown agency often has a private consultant set up meetings with government and opposition MLAs.
“As an agent of the Crown we typically set up meetings as much as possible, but we cannot always do that,” he said Thursday in an interview. “It’s a logistics thing, setting up meetings. Sometimes staff do it and sometimes we need help.”
The Port staff currently have “a lot on their plate,” he said. “Hill + Knowlton helps pick up the slack. We have a contract [with them]for communications and government affairs. We use them as strategic counsel and outreach to government,” Mr. Wilson said.
The meeting with Mr. Bains will mostly involve sharing information, he added. The Port has nothing specific to ask of Mr. Bains, Mr. Wilson said.
Mr. Bains dismissed a suggestion that there was anything political about his meeting with Port Metro Vancouver. Organizations that come to Victoria usually speak to both government and opposition members, he said.
The groups often hold a reception for several politicians as well as schedule separate meetings with individual MLAs, he added. Port Metro Vancouver also arranges tours of the port, he said.
“It is quite helpful, when they come,” Mr. Bains said. “It is a very effective way to promote their cause, and at same time beneficial for MLAs to understand different industries and their issues.”
Mr. Rutkowski has roots that run deep into the NDP. He was a media spokesman for former premier Ujjal Dosanjh and chief of staff and communications director for former party leader Carole James. During the 2011 federal election, Mr. Rutkowski was a campaign adviser and speechwriter for the NDP national campaign.
Mr. Rutkowski declined to be interviewed Thursday, saying in an e-mail that he has not been on the job at Hill + Knowlton long enough to be in a position to comment.