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Kinsella met with Les as ‘consultant’ for insurance giant ING

A spokesman for ING Canada Inc. says top provincial Liberal backroom operative Patrick Kinsella – who has never registered as a lobbyist – worked as a “consultant” for the insurance giant.

The spokesman says Kinsella, while working for the company, attended an April 11, 2007 meeting with then Solicitor General John Les, along with an ING executive.

Under the Lobbyists Registration Act, consultant lobbyists are required to sign-up if they, for pay, communicate with an office holder in an attempt to influence government - although there are some exceptions to that rule.

Kinsella has previously denied ever lobbying the government he was instrumental in electing. ING corporate communications vice-president Gilles Gratton was unable to say what kind of work Kinsella was doing for the company, which is part of multinational financial services firm ING Groep N.V.

“The only thing I can tell you is we’ve used the services of his firm on a number of occasions. Is he a lobbyist or not? I think that’s not for me to decide if the nature of his services are lobbying or not.”

“He’s a consultant that we’ve used,” Gratton continued. “I don’t know the nature of the services that he provided.”

Gratton also said he was unable to say what role Kinsella played during ING’s meeting with Les, which took place at the premier’s Vancouver office.

The topic of the meeting: "polling info" according to a calendar entry exclusively obtained by 24 Hours via a freedom of information request. Gratton said ING conducts polling on "consumer attitudes and behaviours" regarding insurance. And the calendar entry states that information specifically related to the Insurance Corp. of British Columbia - the province's publicly-owned monopoly auto insurance provider.

“We always believe that consumers’ interests are better served when there is strong competition in the marketplace. And, as such, the situation with ICBC was discussed for sure,” explained Gratton, when asked whether the company was looking for any specific policy changes. “I wasn’t part of the discussion at the time. But, basically, if we can increase competition, we felt the interests of the consumer would be better served.”

And was that meeting arranged by ING? “Probably most likely,” Gratton responded. “I don’t know if the minister approached us or not – what was the impetus, who made the initial call.”

Nor could Gratton say what role Kinsella played at that meeting, which Les’s senior aide Brian Sims was also scheduled to attend. Government records also show Kinsella and ING senior marketing and communications vice-president Alister Campbell -- were also scheduled to attend a Feb. 1, 2006 meeting with Les and his junior aide Don Smukowich at the Globe @ YVR restaurant. ING senior

Western Canada vice-president Jetse de Vries was scheduled to be there as well.

Earlier this month, Kinsella refused to consent to a review of his interactions with the Campbell administration by the lobbyists registrar. The New Democrats have since asked the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to investigate – a request the force is still considering.

In a written statement issued five months ago, Kinsella’s company, The Progressive Group, stressed it was “confident it has consistently and correctly followed the requirements” of the Lobbyists Registration Act.

Under the act, lobbyists don’t have to register if they communicate about legislation or regulations in “direct response” to a “written request” from an office holder.

Nor are they required to register if they communicate with an office holder about “the enforcement, interpretation or application” of an act or regulation.

Other exceptions include communications concerning a constituent’s “personal matter” or the “implementation or administration” of a “program, policy, directive or guideline.”

Sean Holman is legislative reporter for 24 Hours and publisher of Public Eye Online.

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