Review finds ‘serious’ misuse of B.C. government resources and staff

VICTORIA – A Liberal government review of the failed internal strategy to win ethnic votes in this May’s British Columbia election has Premier Christy Clark vowing to fix mistakes and the Opposition New Democrats screaming for more blood.

So far, two former Liberal insiders Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee have quit over their partisan and secretive activities in the highly-criticized Liberal multicultural strategic outreach plan and another has left the government.

Former communications director Brian Bonney, named in the report for misuse of government resources, left government earlier for a job in the private sector.

The review also cost former multiculturalism minister John Yap — who after originally declaring he was looking forward to being cleared by the review — a return trip to Clark’s cabinet.

The report was released on the day the legislature adjourns before the election.

Yap apologized Thursday after John Dyble’s review found he participated in secret meetings where confidential information was shared with members of the public and government employees.

Yap said he learned a hard lesson and was heading back to his Richmond-Steveston riding as a backbencher and hoping his constituents re-elect him on May 14.

Clark’s last few words in the legislature before the election saw her also apologizing for the damaging outreach program and the report by her own deputy minister who she appointed to investigate the ethnic strategy.

“When you make a mistake, the right thing to do is own up to it, to accept your responsibility, to do everything you can to get to the bottom of it and to fix it,” she said. “The test is not whether or not people make mistakes — because they do. The test is how we respond to those mistakes when they are revealed.”

The NDP wasn’t satisfied with the report and the resignations, calling for a full inquiry with the authority to interview Liberal party officials.

“The people of British Columbia aren’t buying this government trying to change the channel from a scandal that starts in the premier’s office and works its way to the Liberal party,” said NDP caucus chairman Shane Simpson. “A scandal where this government manipulates the public service in order to supply its political party with information and resources. It’s an embarrassment, and it’s a scandal.”

Haakstad, Clark’s former deputy chief of staff, resigned earlier for her part in organizing the outreach strategy which proposed connecting taxpayer-funded Liberal government workers with the B.C. Liberal party to mount co-ordinating activities in ethnic communities.

The plan included mounting so-called ethnic wins through apologies in multicultural communities for issues considered historic wrongs, including the Komagata Maru and Chinese head tax policy.

With the release of the report, Lee, a former government ministerial assistant, resigned without severance. The report said Lee and Bonney worked together on the outreach strategy.

Dyble’s report concluded the work lines between the B.C. government and the provincial Liberal party were clearly crossed in a government effort to win ethnic votes.

“It is the conclusion of the review team that there were violations of the Public Service Standards of Conduct,” said the review. “There are two notable areas where the team determined there was a misuse of government resources.”

One misuse involved the payment of $6,800 to a community contractor work approved by Yap without a signed contract, while the second concerned Bonney, who did work for both the government caucus and the Liberal party while he was being paid as a government employee.

Dyble said at least half of Bonney’s time was spent doing work for the Liberal party on the ethnic outreach strategy.

“Brian Bonney did not create a clear distinction between his volunteer role with the B.C. Liberal Party and his role in the government,” said the report. “Based on evidence, it would appear to a reasonable person that he may have spent up to half of his time on partisan activities. This … amounts to a serious breach of the standards of conduct.”

Finance ministry officials said Bonney was paid $124,000 during the period from October 2011 to Feb. 21, 2013.

Clark met with the media after the report’s release and said the B.C. Liberal Party has written a $70,000 cheque to the government to repay some of the work Bonney did on government time.

The Liberal plan to win the ethnic vote in this May’s election was leaked earlier this month and has already forced the premier to apologize several times.

Dyble report’s recommended Clark’s Chief of Staff Dan Doyle take appropriate disciplinary and corrective actions against those involved in hatching the plan.

“People are not perfect, but it is my firm belief that leadership demands responsibility. This document isn’t easy reading for any of us in government,” Clark said.

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