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Stockwell Day, then minister of international trade, speaks during an Ottawa news conference on Aug. 3, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Stockwell Day, then minister of international trade, speaks during an Ottawa news conference on Aug. 3, 2010. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Life After Politics

Stockwell Day touts insight and advice - but not insider information - at new firm Add to ...

Most of the B.C. caucus of Conservative MPs is expected on hand Tuesday at the Vancouver Aquarium to toast Stockwell Day, the recently retired cabinet minister who just announced he's now in the "government relations" business.

Heritage Minister James Moore and Mr. Day's former staff will be among the Conservatives at the farewell reception in honour of the ex-Treasury Board president, who announced before the election he was retiring from politics after 25 years in public life.

Now his website describes a new Vancouver-based company called Stockwell Day Connex where Mr. Day can be hired to "work with your organization to create a clear and concise government relations strategy as well as provide insightful analysis on Canadian political developments."

Government relations is the term lobbyists use to describe their business. Registered lobbyists in Canada are represented by an association called the Government Relations Institute of Canada. But Mr. Day stressed in an interview that the site makes clear he won't be doing any lobbying, nor will he be in breach of the other rules his government set up in 2006 for former cabinet ministers.

"I do not deal in any confidential information. What I do is provide advice," Mr. Day said. "It's really helping people with communications, helping people make sure whatever they're planning is transparent and open and they've consulted with communities."

The Conflict of Interest Act brought in by the Conservatives as one of their first pieces of legislation created new post-employment rules for cabinet ministers, their staff and senior public servants.

The minister who introduced the law, John Baird, promised it would change the culture in Ottawa where the lobbying world is populated by former politicos.

"You shouldn't be selling your contacts and your knowledge to the highest bidder for a reasonable period of time," he said in 2006. "We've got to create a culture change and that's what we're trying to do."

The law made it illegal for a former public office holder to give advice to a client, business associate or employer using information that was obtained while in office that is not available to the public.

While that seems to draw a fine line as to what Mr. Day can or cannot do, Monte Solberg insists it can be easily managed.

The former cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's government is now a senior adviser to Fleishman-Hillard, where he provides advice to corporate clients in a similar way to what Mr. Day promises to offer.

Mr. Solberg says many companies simply want to know how government works. When he meets his former Conservative colleagues who are still in government, he says he has never discussed a client.

"It's quite easy to avoid the line to lobbying because what Stock does and what I do and I think others do is help businesses and organizations understand the black box that is government," he said.

"The difference between that and lobbying is quite large of course, because lobbying is when you use your influence to open a door so that somebody may get some kind of privileged access and that's not what I do, nor do I have any desire, and it's not what Stock is doing."

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