Few things are as disgusting as when lobbying and political cronyism cross paths. This is going to focus on Doug Ford, and his operatives working for drug companies. Also, see this piece on Bonnie Henry’s Communications Chief.
The lobbying firm relevant here is Counsel Public Affairs. Its members are former (and current) political hacks who use their connections to push for financial benefits for their clients. While it’s mandatory to disclose such things, it’s rarely in the public interest.
Take Jessica Georgakopoulos, who went (almost overnight) from being a staffer for Doug Ford, to becoming a mouthpiece for GlaxoSmithKline.
Jessica Georgakopoulos brings over a dozen years of strategic thinking, political insights and communications expertise. She has extensive experience both in the public and private sectors in strategy development, media relations, crisis communications and advocacy campaigns.
Immediately prior to joining Counsel, Jessica served as the Director of Strategic Communications for the Premier of Ontario where she advised on the widely praised communications of Ontario’s COVID-19 response and managed the integration of government-wide communications strategies during the pandemic.
Jessica has also served the Ford Government as the Chief of Staff to the Minister of Long-Term Care, leading the development of the government’s modernization plan for building long-term care homes. Jessica also worked as Director of Communications for Ontario’s Minister of Government and Consumer Services.
Jess brings to Counsel a strong network across Canada’s political and business media forged through her work as the Director of Communications at the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, her five years in public relations and crisis communication consulting, and serving as Press Secretary and Issues Manager to two Federal Cabinet Ministers within the Harper Government. During her time as a consultant, Jessica worked on high-profile advocacy campaigns and provided crisis communications support for leading organizations.
Immediately prior to joining Counsel Public Affairs, Georgakopoulos worked as Communications Director for Doug Ford, related directly for his Covid-19 public strategies. She now is a lobbyist for pharmaceutical companies like GSK, pushing for vaccines. And in case there is any confusion about the content of the lobbying, the Ontario Registry itself lists the content.
Q: Describe your lobbying goal(s) in detail. What are you attempting to influence or accomplish as a result of your communications with Ontario public office holders?
A: Engage with provincial government decision-makers to educate and raise awareness about two new COVID-19 therapeutic treatments under development by GSK (Vir-7831 and Otilimab), and encourage Ontario to actively collaborate with the federal government to expedite procurement options, and pursue related implementation matters, to secure an appropriate allocation of such medicines to potentially make them available to Canadian patients, prescribers and hospitals, pending approvals by Health Canada.
In the span of a month, Georgakopoulos went from working with Ford’s Government on its “pandemic” response, to trying to convince them to buy drugs related to that response. Does anyone see a problem with any of this?
For more context, both GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer announced they would launch a joint consumer health care venture. Considering that Pfizer is one of the companies with an interim authorized (not approved) vaccine on the market, lobbying for GSK could be seen as helping them. Again, consider the timing of Georgakopoulos’ departure from the Ford Government.
Brad Lavigne and Jean-Marc Prevost were mentioned in the previous piece, along with their ties to Emergent BioSolutions, which makes AstraZeneca, and coziness with Bonnie Henry and Adrian Dix.
As for cronyism and conflicts of interest within Counsel Public Affairs, hold on. It’s about to get much, much worse.
Caroline Pinto is also listed as a GSK lobbyist. She is co-Founder of Counsel Public Affairs, and was “policy advisor to the Attorney General of Ontario and Minister Responsible for Native Affairs under the Mike Harris government from 1995 to 1998”. Interesting how her ties extend back to the previous ONPC Government.
Devan Sommerville was a policy advisor in the Ontario Liberal Governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynne. Perhaps if Ford gets voted out, Devan will be called in to do the influence peddling.
Jaskiran Shoker was an intern in the Ontario Legislature at the tail end of Kathleen Wynne’s run as Premier. She then immediately gets into consulting work with Counsel Public Affairs. That must have been quite some educational experience.
Shanice Scott worked in the Premier’s Office back when it was run by Kathleen Wynne. Another Liberal Party insider.
Of course, the lobbying isn’t limited to Ontario. Counsel Public Affairs also lobbied the Alberta Government, trying to push a nasal spray on behalf of Emergent BiolSolutions. As stated earlier, this company is manufacturing AstraZeneca. They’ve hit Saskatchewan as well.
Yes, this firm has lobbied Federally too
To be clear, this isn’t all the lobbying that Counsel Public Affairs does, or even all the pharma lobbying. The point is that this organization is filled with partisan operatives, very connected, and are advocating for it. Jessica Georgakopoulos is a particularly aggregious case, but far from the only one. Parliaments, particularly in Ontario, are compromised by this group.
(23) Alberta Emergent BioSolutions Lobbying Counsel Pulbic Affairs