A couple people have written me recently, and one has commented, asking me whether I know much about the entry into Canada of private prison contractor GEO Group, on a mission to soak up government funding running the public prisons that the Harper regime is currently shutting down. I’m afraid I don’t. I could launch into a long rant about the stupidity of public-private partnerships, but you could get that from any number of authors.
What I do know a little about, though, is GEO Group’s lobbyist, and that fits more into the themes of this blog, so I’ll comment on that today, instead. In Ottawa, there are dozens of lobbying firms, ranging from tiny outfits with a couple of high-profile former staffers and a few people just out of public policy school, all the way up to branch plants of giant international outfits like Hill & Knowlton (which is now “Hill + Knowlton,” I’m sure for very important reasons, so everyone update your contact lists.)
Among the most interesting, though, are the specialized “former public official” firms. For instance, if you want a firm that specializes in using retired Canadian Forces generals to land military contracts for their private-sector clients, there’s CFN Consultants. If you want to talk to a retired deputy minister or the former head of a Quango, there’s the Sussex Circle. And then again, if what you want is to buy a former MP for a day, there’s the Parliamentary Group:
Exclusively composed of former parliamentarians, senior civil servants and military. We specialize in caucus management and the development of business opportunities with government.
This is the firm which has been engaged by the GEO Group, for the purpose of “procurement opportunities pertaining to the operation of correctional services institutions.” The lobbyist in question is firm co-founder Patrick Gagnon, a Liberal MP from 1993-1997 and a Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General. Also at the firm are former Liberal MPs Francis LeBlanc, David Berger, and John Nunziata.
There’s not just former Liberals in this outfit, though. Oh, no. You see, once politicos cross the floor and become lobbyists, their partisan rhetoric goes out the window and they happily become office-mates with people who they used to claim were just a couple of omnibus bills away from destroying the nation. Also at the Parliamentary Group are former Reform-Alliance-Conservative MPs Deb Grey, who gave Harper one of his first political jobs as her special assistant; Val Meredith; and Jim Hart. Interestingly, their bios refer to them as “Reform-Conservative,” which I suppose is a helpful translation for foreigners like the GEO Group who may not quite be up to speed on the changing colours of the Canadian right.
And then, because bipartisanship in the name of renting out democracy just isn’t good enough, there’s also Lorne Nystrom, former NDP MP and recently a backer of Tom Mulcair’s leadership campaign.
You see, the nation’s leading political parties can work together! Provided they’re being well-paid to do so, of course.Tweet