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Revolving doors and New Prosperity’s new employee

11 October, 2011

[Update October 19th, 2011 - We have received a letter from HDI regarding this post and our new post - Ooops, HDI is more of an Uncle to Taseko - provides more current information on this situation]

In a recent post we explained that Taseko’s “New Prosperity” mine may be “new” in name only; however, while the mine project may not be new, the companies involved do have at least one “new” employee. Jason T. Quigley is now the Executive Vice President of Regulatory and Stakeholder Affairs of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s parent company, Hunter Dickinson Inc. (HDI)[Update October 19, 2011 - HDI is closely connected to Taseko, but is not legally a parent company]. His job description includes providing “regulatory and Corporate Social Responsibility expertise in support of HDI interests.”

Until recently, Quigley was employed as the Regional Director for the Pacific and Yukon Regional Office of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA), and for at least some of the that time CEAA was involved in the environmental assessment of the original Prosperity mine proposal.

Prior to moving to CEAA Quigley worked for the Oceans, Habitat and Enhancement Branch of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), where he published and co-published influential studies on fish habitat management (see, for example, the number of times that the Cohen Commission has referenced his work). Quigley’s publications were also cited by environmental groups like MiningWatch Canada during the review panel assessment of Prosperity to refute the biological feasibility of Taseko’s promises of fish habitat compensation (in lieu of Fish Lake/Teztan Biny).

Canada’s Public Service and its Ethics Code

While it is good to know that Taseko has an experienced expert in both fisheries and environmental assessment at its disposal, we cannot help but express concern about the appearance of a conflict of interest: a person who very recently worked for DFO and CEAA, and was responsible for regulating Taseko, now works for the parent a company of that is closely connected to Taseko [Update October 19, 2011], while Taseko is attempting to obtain authorizations from DFO (and other departments), and a favourable environmental assessment decision from CEAA in relation to New Prosperity.

According to Canada’s Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service:

Without unduly restricting their ability to seek other employment, former public servants should undertake to minimize the possibility of real, apparent or potential conflicts of interest between their new employment and their most recent responsibilities within the federal public service….

We could not agree more. We also note that for executive and other high-level positions within government such as the position held by Quigley at CEAA:

Former public servants shall not, within a period of one year after leaving office:

  • accept …employment with, entities with which they personally, or through their subordinates, had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service;
  • make representations for, or on behalf of, persons to any department or organization with which they personally, or through their subordinates, had significant official dealings during the period of one year immediately prior to the termination of their service; or
  • give advice to their clients using information that is not available to the public concerning the programs or policies of the departments or organizations with which they were employed or with which they had a direct and substantial relationship.

These requirements can be waived or varied by the Deputy Head of the relevant government agency, and we presume that that occurred here. 

Given the prominence of the Prosperity mine proposal, it is surprising that Quigley would move so quickly from government to a major mining company that is closely connected to owns Taseko Mines Ltd. [Update, October 19, 2011]

The Public Service Values and Ethics Code is clearly intended to deal with the perception of a revolving door between government and industry. In all likelihood a well-meaning Deputy Head felt that Quigley’s change in employment would not give rise to a “real, apparent or potential conflict of interest”. However, in the law there is a principle that “not only must justice be done; it must also be seen to be done.”

We are not suggesting that Mr. Quigley is actually using his past connections to the government to move New Prosperity forward; indeed, we do not know how or if the new VP of Regulatory and Stakeholder Affairs is involved in Taseko’s regulatory process for New Prosperity. But we do think that there is reason to be concerned and we think it behooves HDI to disclose the limitations it has surely put on Quigley’s scope of work. [Update, October 19, 2011 - HDI has provided some details on these limitations]

What do you think? What are the optics of Mr. Quigley’s move to HDI? Does it suggest that Taseko may have gained an advantage in their New Prosperity application? 

By Rachel Forbes and Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyers

Photo by Dan4th Nicholas used under a creative commons licence.