Alberta's Wildrose opposition has called out the new NDP government after learning that the chief of staff to Energy Minister Margaret McCuaig-Boyd is registered as a lobbyist against the Northern Gateway and Energy East pipelines.
Until recently, Graham Mitchell served as interim executive director at social media campaign group Leadnow, and is still listed as such on Ottawa's lobby registry. In a long list of subject matter, he includes efforts to stop Enbridge Inc.'s Northern Gateway pipeline and to persuade the National Energy Board to expand its review of TransCanada Corp.'s proposed Energy East pipeline to include climate impacts of growing oil sands production and to allow broader public hearings. However, he reported no actual lobbying activity on those subjects.
Wildrose energy critic Leela Aher said his lobbyist role "sends a trouble message" to the oil and gas sector. "Albertans need to have the confidence that their government is working to advance our province's energy interests, not working against them," she said.
"I hope Minister McCuaig-Boyd will take a clear stance and state unequivocally that she'll stand up and fight for projects that are good for Alberta jobs, growth and long-term prosperity."
In the spring election campaign, Premier Rachel Notley said she would not work to win support for the Northern Gateway pipeline, but after her victory she promised to work in partnership with the industry.
Still, company executives are nervous as her government prepares to announce new carbon regulations that could increase the levy on greenhouse-gas emissions from the oil sands, and to launch a review of the province's royalty regime.
In addition to his role with Leadnow, Mr. Mitchell served as director of training and education at the Broadbent Institute, a left-leaning think tank that was founded by former national NDP leader Ed Broadbent. "He's a very pragmatic, level-headed, seasoned guy," Broadbent Institute president Rick Smith said in an interview. "Industry will find him to be a very reliable partner."
Ms. Notley's office was unavailable for comment prior to The Globe and Mail's deadline. Jamie Biggar, co-founder of Leadnow, said Mr. Mitchell served as interim executive director for five months and was not active in lobbying, but had to be included on the registry as a technicality.
The Energy Minister gave her first speech to an industry crowd in Calgary on Wednesday at the Global Petroleum Show. She acknowledged that producers face considerable uncertainty due to low oil prices and the change in government.
"Alberta will continue to welcome the energy business," she said.
"We simply want to do it right by developing the province's rich reserves in a manner that is fair to the resource owners – Albertans themselves – and to the companies that extract the energy and deserve a reasonable rate of return on their investment."