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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 lawyer 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 and unavailable.

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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