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Revolving Door Sees Alberta Political Staffer Hired by Canada’s Largest Oil Lobby Group

Mark Cooper, a former spokesperson for the Alberta government's department of Environment and Water, and press secretary for the Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs, has moved on from his government post to work as the manager of oil sands communications for the Canadian Association for Petroleum Producers (CAPP), Canada's most outspoken pro-oil lobbying outfit.

There's more than just irony with Cooper going from working on water to oil. There are some pretty serious questions here around the idea of "revolving door" politics. The concern is not unique to Alberta, most governments recognize that government officials moving from government to industry is a slippery slope and tricky to regulate, especially when the industry is related to the government agency that the individual previously worked in.

In many jurisdictions, this type of revolving door between government and industry is regulated to an extent. For example, when I worked for Canada's Foreign Affairs Department I had to sign an agreement that I would not work for any company or organization I had dealings with for one year after leaving the department. This rule should hold especially true for government employees moving from a regulatory agency – like Alberta Environment and Water – directly to any organization or company with interests in the same regulated sector. 

According to a source in Alberta's Office of the Premier, Cooper did meet with the government's Ethics Commissioner and passed muster to go work at CAPP.

In Alberta there is a sixth month "cooling off" period for anyone moving from a government agency to a position where they are directly lobbying the government. Because Cooper is not a lobbyist per-se at CAPP and instead a communications officer, the cooling off period does not apply. Further, for the last eight months before moving on to CAPP, Cooper worked for the Minister of International and Intergovernmental Affairs, which according to the Premier's office is not a role that involves tar sands.

That said, a quick a review of the International Affairs website finds that is rife with talk of oil exports and trade. The Minister of International Affairs is also heavily involved in the push for the US to approve the controversial Keystone XL pipeline – which also happens to be something CAPP has been working hard on over the last couple of years.

More questions than answers so far on this latest example of a revolving door between government and the oil and gas sector. And more to come as we look further into this story.

Here's a tweet Cooper made about his move to CAPP, and an eyebrow raising response from Postmedia News reporter Mike DeSouza:

Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?
Like a kid in a candy store
When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on TC Energy’s Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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