Liberals address issues in outreach report
The Liberals weren’t sorry to see the end of the legislative session last week. The final report into government’s ethnic outreach plan shows government workers used public resources to do Liberal party work in reaching out to ethnic communities.
The government’s report into the Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan said some officials didn’t separate their partisan and government work, and there was “inappropriate” activity hiring “community liaison contractors.”
It also says private e-mails were used to avoid freedom of information requests and there were two “serious instances of government resources being misused.”
Liberal MLA Marc Dalton said the government accepts the report.
“It was a tough report, but necessary,” he added.
“We wanted all the facts to get out there and they’re out there. It stands in stark contrast to what the NDP has done,” regarding use of NDP MLA constituency money for caucus purposes.
“There was certainly a blurring of lines between political staffers.”
The report identifies former ministry communications director Brian Bonney as spending about half of his work time on partisan activities. Bonney was paid $124,000 over 18 months, when a group of premier’s office staff and other government employees developed a plan to hire three ethnic outreach contractors.
A September 2012 strategy memo leaked to the NDP detailed a plan to organize ethnic-themed events, apologies for historic wrongs, such as the head tax on Chinese immigrants, and efforts to compile lists of ethnic community members for use by the B.C. Liberal Party in the coming election campaign.
Only one contractor began work, and was paid $6,800 before the program was terminated.
Both Bonney’s conduct and the hiring of the contractor with a political role are what the report identifies as “serious breaches” of the oath taken by all government employees.
Four deputy ministers conducted the review in 14 days collecting, 10,000 pages of documents and directing a forensic analysis of electronic data from government systems.
“We took action and there will be changes,” said Dalton, also pointing out that NDP leader Adrian Dix had to resign because he changed the date on a memo when he was chief of staff to Premier Glen Clark.
Dalton said the most recent scandal affects politicians on both sides of the political spectrum who try to do their best as elected officials.
“It taints everybody and it taints me.”
During the campaign for the May 14 election, Dalton said he’ll run on his record as MLA for the last four years, “which is serving the community, with all my efforts – and I believe that Maple Ridge-Mission is the better place of because of it and because of my government.”
Mike Bocking, NDP candidate in the riding, said that scandals bring government into disrepute, and that the current regime started losing the public’s confidence following the sale of B.C. Rail, then inaccurate provincial deficit numbers and introduction of the Harmonized Sales Tax.
B.C. is reverting back to the previous provincial sales tax and goods and services tax system in April.
“That’s why it’s really important that parties say what they’re going to do and then explain how they’re going to do it,” Bocking said. “You can’t do these things and then expect the public to support you.”
The NDP will raise corporate taxes back up to 12 per cent, he added, as well as income taxes on those making more than $150,000. The party also plans to redirect part of carbon tax revenues. A full costed NDP platform will be released in April.
Bocking opened his campaign office Saturday at Lougheed and 226th Street.
“There are still 60 days until the election and we’re going to have win the trust of the public in our own right.”
– with Black Press files