Harris got $18,000 for advice on Hydro
Former premier hired by lawyer
NDP alleges pork-barrelling
Toronto Star - March 18, 2004
by Robert Benzie
After leaving office, former Conservative premier Mike Harris was paid
more than $18,000 as an electricity "expert" by a prominent
retained by Hydro One, documents show.
According to results of a freedom-of-information request filed by the
Liberals, Montreal lawyer Pierre Marc Johnson, who was Parti Quebecois
premier of Quebec for two months in 1985, hired Harris.
"Is there no end? This is pork-barrelling super-sized," said New Democrat
MPP Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre), said of Harris, who was premier from
June 1995 until April 2002.
The Liberals had asked Hydro One for details of any contracts awarded to
Harris. According to a letter from Nina Kirienko, Hydro One's freedom of
information and privacy office manager, that search did not turn up
anything. However, during a scan of Johnson's name, it was disclosed the
lawyer with Heenan Blaikie was retained by then-Hydro One chair Glen Wright.
Wright is a one-time key Harris aide who was recently paid a reported
$400,000 by the Liberals to resign as head of the Workplace Safety and
Insurance Board amid a controversy over his spending habits.
He hired Johnson to give advice on the proposed $300 million transmission
interconnection project between Hydro One and Hydro-Quebec. Sources say
Johnson was hired in November 2002 and did work for the utility until
August 2003. He was paid $115,807.01 and he sub-contracted Harris, who
insiders say did work during that 10 months.
"No monies were paid by Hydro One to Mr. Harris," Kirienko wrote to the Liberals.
Harris and Wright did not return calls and Johnson is out of the country
Conservative MPP John Baird, who was energy minister at the time of the
contract, said Harris did not contravene laws prohibiting politicians from
lobbying government for one year after leaving office.
"He had left politics and was not lobbying the Ontario government. Johnson
was free to ... hire anyone he wanted," said Baird (Nepean-Carleton).
But Liberal MPP Mike Colle (Eglinton-Lawrence) called the deal "very odd."
"Hydro was in such bad shape and (Harris) didn't really light up Hydro
when he was premier. Then he comes over and is now asked to be a
consultant on Hydro issues?" said Colle.
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