The “incurious bastards” is the nickname Lew Edwardson gave to certain members of the BC Legislative Press Gallery. It seems apt, given the immediate response by Les Leyne, Keith Baldrey and Vaughn Palmer to a criminal charge of breach of trust laid yesterday against Brian Bonney.
When I read the news I had nothing but questions, which I’ll enumerate. These folks had nothing.
Keith Baldrey on twitter.. “The NDP has dressed up “quick wins” scandal as a topple-the-govt. type affair. So far, a long, long way from that. At least for now.”
I responded that Bonney may go to jail for actions which may well have been sanctioned from inside the Premier’s office (the infamous Quickwins memo originated there). Bonney’s partisan activities certainly involved officials within BC Liberal Party HQ.
In most jurisdictions, the laying of a criminal charge against a political operative is when the fun begins for media. It’s like crack for journalists. Our journalists declare the issue dead before it’s begun to get interesting.
What happened? Who knew? Did the Premier know what her trusted fundraiser and Director of Government Communications was up to? Who else was connected to the breach of trust?
I’ll admit my first question was.. how did it take Special Prosecutor Butcher three years to lay one criminal charge? What was so difficult? John Horgan and the NDP are promising an intriguing trial , in which we will be shocked at what went on.
But I freely admit to naively assuming the delay meant more than one charge was coming, and my initial reaction was disappointment.
For now, we must suffer through a publication ban, which media should be thinking of challenging if it goes beyond the June pre-trial. In Ontario, ITO’s vs Rob Ford were published to great media attention. Why not here? We know pretty certainly what Laura Miller (BC Liberal Exec Director) is charged with in Ontario. She was questioned by a committee of the Ontario legislature in public with cameras rolling.
The comfort is that, like the BCRail trial, when the trial gets started, we will find out much more. Our media doesn’t like to talk about the RCMP wiretapping Premier Clark’s brother during that trial, but you can read about it in this link from Ross’s place.. http://pacificgazette.blogspot.ca/2016/05/for-recordanother-conversation-in.html That was Bruce Clark, discussing receiving a draft request for proposals from Dave Basi to share with others who had no right to view government information before its public release.
Read the names of the people Bonney is judicially barred from talking to while he awaits trial…. https://t.co/WBGluLZRUA Staff from the party, the Premier’s office, the whistleblower who was allegedly offered work (money) to shut her up (Sepideh Sarrapfour) , a Burnaby School Trustee, two MLA’s one of whom still serves.
My disappointment isn’t that there’s after all this, nothing to see. My disappointment is in the slow grinding pace of justice, and that there are too many unanswered questions. My disappointment is that so many cases involving teams of people wind up with one fall guy charged. (Robocalls anyone? And yes, BCRail anyone? )
Opposition leader John Horgan did the best prosecutorial inquiry in the legislature yesterday since Mulcair on Nigel Wright, Mike Duffy and the $90,000.
The big question is, did this grant happen to help an individual, a relative? (See below link to Globe and Mail December article.) Or was there a policy reason to grant $150K to a single school at a very particular time, without a paper trail or policy to support it. Watch the first 30 minutes or so of video, or read the transcript, and see if you can discern an answer. (Thanks to Pete Quily for sharing the video link).
This time it was about a $150,000 story that’s been largely untold. A story that got vastly more interesting by the time John Horgan was through with Christy Clark in estimates May 11th.
The title quote above relates to a story told by Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail some months ago. It’s a story that should have raised alarms in the media but the Premier was questioned only once, with no follow-ups. That fact should raise alarms in the public mind about media disinterest in official corruption in this province. It’s a story that entails coincidental benefits to Clark’s family, a lack of records which may never have existed, weren’t produced, or were triple deleted evading FOI. And it involves the evolution of excuses….(Bruce Clark can’t get his sister to a family dinner, never mind peddle influence…Christy never knew her brother wanted to do business with Old Massett…Bruce Clark just gave a fellow a number of a friend in the Ministry of Education. If that’s true, and it’s true that Ken Rea subsequently made the request to Christy Clark, that’s some friend. )
The original story involves Christy Clark travelling to Old Massett on Haida Gwaii to give a very unusual $150K cheque, a provincial contribution to a feasability study on building a new gym at the school there. It’s unusual because the school is on reserve land, which is federal jurisdiction. Nothing like this cheque has ever been given. It happens that the fellow lobbying the government for a contribution, Chief Ken Rea, was also working on behalf of a deal with Christy Clark’s brother on a partnership with the Old Massett Village Council on a $10 Million windfarm project. Allegations were made that the $150K school contribution helped Chief Rea in an election to council, and thereby assisted Bruce Clark in his business ambitions. Read the original story just here, then follow the Hansard quotes below, and decide for yourself if this doesn’t stink to high heaven… http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/christy-clark-accused-of-interfering-in-band-election-to-aid-brothers-deal/article27654979
Now I’m going to selectively quote the exchange between Horgan and Clark yesterday in Estimates Debate for the Premier’s Office.. The full debate can be found here https://www.leg.bc.ca/documents-data/debate-transcripts/40th-parliament/5th-session/20160511pm-House-Blues beginning after Question Period. Sorry it’s long , but it’s worth it. Given the lack of records produced via FOI, it’s difficult not to think this is about Christy Clark splashing public money around however she feels like it…. And if it helps her brother? Well that’s accidental of course. It’s just a coincidence this unprecedented action helped him out.
J. Horgan: On November 26, the Premier visited Masset, her first visit to Haida Gwaii as Premier, and, as I am advised, did not inform the Haida Nation of her arrival, did not advise the mayor of Masset. She visited a school, Chief Matthews Elementary School, not a provincial responsibility, and made a financial commitment to that school when we have schools that are the responsibility of the province of British Columbia that are going without funding.
I’m wondering if the Premier could explain what took her to Old Masset on that given day, and why we would be promoting expenditures of public moneys for an educational institution that’s not the responsibility of the provincial government?
Hon. C. Clark: In British Columbia, all citizens are British Columbians, whether or not they attend a school that is funded by the provincial government, whether or not their school system and health care system is the constitutional responsibility of another level of government.
J. Horgan: We did a freedom-of-information request to the Ministry of Education for any and all documents, occasions when the ministry has provided funding for a feasibility study related to an on-reserve school. The FOI came back as a “no records” response. Later, on January 25, an FOI analyst advised us that Education has never provided funding directly for on-reserve schools.
… Was this a policy decision that was made in the jet, on the way? Was there any material created to support the announcement? Based on our request for information, none existed.
Hon. C. Clark: I’m sorry. I can’t speak to the member’s question around freedom of information. But as I said, we are deeply committed to making sure we support First Nations kids in British Columbia.
J. Horgan: Can the Premier tell us how many other schools, First Nations schools, the government has supported while she has been Premier?
Hon. C. Clark: …. I think British Columbia has to think about doing things in different ways as we redefine our relationship with First Nations.
J. Horgan: So the Premier’s not aware of any other on-reserve schools that have received any funding from the province of British Columbia?
Hon. C. Clark: I’m not aware.
J. Horgan: Does this reflect a policy change, and will other on-reserve schools have access to $150,000 in provincial funding for their needs?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, as I said, as we seek reconciliations with First Nations, we’re open to innovative ways of doing things….
J. Horgan: I’m advised that the Haida Nation was not aware of the Premier’s arrival and departure. The cost of the trip was an $8,170 chartered plane for the Premier and her crew. Again, the visit was to Chief Ken Rea and some other community leaders.
Were there any protocols that were followed? The Haida Nation is fiercely proud of the progress they’ve made, nation to nation, with Canada and with British Columbia. I’m just curious, if the Premier wants to embark on a new relationship, why they were excluded from this visit?
Hon. C. Clark: I’m not aware that anything the member has said is accurate. It may be, or it may not be. But I will say that I do spend as much time as I can visiting First Nations communities.
J. Horgan: B.C. has 12 on-reserve schools that are considered to be in “poor or worse condition” than the only school in British Columbia that has received a $150,000 grant from the Premier via a visit in a private jet.
J. Horgan: How did you learn of this particular school when the budget office says there are a dozen schools in, as they say, poor or worse condition? Why was it this visit? What other work was done?
Hon. C. Clark: Requests come to government all the time, as I’m sure the member knows.
J. Horgan: So I’m curious why, after the election of a prime minister who said he was going to get some work done on reserves, you would have found $150,000 to give to this particular initiative when there were at least a dozen other schools in British Columbia that were in more need and there are 240 schools within the system you are responsible for that have been closed since 2001.
Hon. C. Clark: As I said, we want to make sure that we are supporting First Nations communities in a variety of innovative ways. We’re doing that across the province. The Ministry of Children and Families has been really at the forefront of this. The All Chiefs meeting that we do once a year now — it’s a historic change — is where all of cabinet, all deputies and all chiefs from across the province meet together and talk about what we can do together. All of these are elements of reconciliation. We can’t be afraid to try and meet those reconciliation goals sometimes in ways that depart from the status quo.
J. Horgan: When you met with chiefs in September, did they identify this school as a priority, and is that why you ended up in Haida Gwaii on November 26?
Hon. C. Clark: I met with a lot of chiefs that day, and a lot of chiefs met with a lot of different ministers. I can’t give the member a full accounting of what all of them and all of their elected representatives talked to ministers and deputies about.
J. Horgan: I’ll hazard a guess that no one did talk to the Minister of Education or any deputies, because when we asked for information on this…. I haven’t been out of government long enough to not know that if a minister is asked to do something, he’ll advise the deputy and materials will be created. Yet when we asked for information about this policy change, “no responsive records” is what we got back.
The Premier said, interestingly enough, that it takes a while to turn a government around. But apparently it doesn’t take any time at all to find 150 grand for an area that you’re not even responsible for after you’ve flown up with your entourage in a private jet.
Perhaps the Premier can try and zero in on that. We have an abundance of staff here. They have electronic devices. Maybe we can call back the HQ and see if we can get a legitimate answer as to why you spent $150,000 of taxpayers’ money on something you’re not responsible for?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, the Old Massett school serves a lot of non–First Nations kids as well.
J. Horgan: It’s inconceivable to me that the Premier of British Columbia could make her first visit to the Haida Nation and not advise the Haida council that she was coming.
She came with a cheque for $150,000 that has no policy foundation whatsoever. We can’t get an answer today as to why it happened other than it was a good idea at the time. Well, whose good idea? Did this idea come to you directly from the chief or from an intermediary? ….
I have not yet heard from her why it was that this policy shift happened. Was there any foundational work done by the Ministry of Education? Apparently not, based on freedom of information. Perhaps it was a whim by the Premier. If that’s what it was, then that’s okay by me. Just fess up to it.
Why would you go for the first time to the Haida Nation, not advise the Haida council you’re coming, come with a cheque in hand, drop it off and head out of town, never having done that in any other corner of the province — or by any other Premier in the history of B.C.? Why would that happen? If you were so proud of it, why is there not more work being done for the other schools in B.C.? We can’t find a scrap of paper on that either.
Hon. C. Clark : ….We’ve continued to try and find innovative ways to work with First Nations, and we’re going to continue to do that. …
J. Horgan: Did FNESC, which is the First Nations Education Steering Committee…? Were they advised on this contribution? Are there other schools that can apply? Is there an application process? Or was it just a one-off? ….That’s about a $150,000 grant that only existed the day the Premier arrived and has not been talked about since she left.
If there is a grant program, can the Premier advise us how other institutions can apply for it?
J. Horgan: The Skidegate Band school is in difficult straits as well. Did the Premier ever contemplate seeing the Skidegate Band when she was on Haida Gwaii?
Hon. C. Clark: I don’t know if they’ve made that request.
J. Horgan: Did the request from Chief Rea come directly to the Premier’s office, or through an intermediary?
Hon. C. Clark: Chief Ken Rea made the request directly to me in a meeting that we had.
J. Horgan: We can confirm, then, that Ken Rea asked you for the money, and you gave it to him. Is that the process for funding for schools on reserves in British Columbia?
Hon. C. Clark: No. The Ministry of Education reviewed the proposal, and did their work on it
J. Horgan: I’ll read from the freedom-of-information request to the Minister of Education: “Any and all records documents, occasions when the ministry has provided funding for a feasibility study relating to an on-reserve school; i.e., similar to the announcement made on the 26th of November related to Chief Matthews Elementary.” Their response was “no records.” ….
I’m wondering, again, if the Premier can say to the House today that there is in place — as a result of this innovation that she’s brought to First Nations relations in British Columbia — a process where other First Nations communities can approach the government for 150 grand?
Hon. C. Clark: Well, if the member thinks $150,000 is going to solve the issue that the folks in Osoyoos are facing, he’s badly mistaken.
J. Horgan: I’m just looking at the perception. I appreciate that the Premier may well be genuine in her desire to break the logjam of status quo, but it seems passing strange that in the middle of an election campaign, in Old Massett, the Premier shows up with $150,000 for the school there for planning money when we have no jurisdiction whatsoever
Kamloops radio guy Bob Price put it out on Twitter Sunday May 8th that a BIG announcement was coming Monday morning from the BCGovernment.
I thought, “Is Speaker Linda Reid stepping down? Or is there an investigation into her staff?” . No, couldn’t be so….Keith Baldrey thinks the letter at the bottom of this post is “overblown” according to his twitter feed.
I thought…”Has PETRONAS found a way to move to final investment decision prior to Federal Environmental review? And at $5.btu prices? (World market, and half of what they need.) …Posh. It couldn’t be true.”
But the government needs a distraction after a bad week. So it’s “increased distracted driving penalties”. I won’t bore you with the link.
Here’s just a sample of the bad week (and do check the links)..It had me musing that I could do a post every single day on a “reason for the BCLiberals to be voted out in 365 days” for a year, and have substantial material left over. Unfortunately I can’t commit to writing every day.
There are two alleged leaks involving the Speaker’s Office. In the first, the Children and Youth Rep alleges MCFD was tipped off about the tabling of a report on Bob Plecas incomplete investigation and recommendations to restructure the Ministry. The representative, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafonde criticized the Plecas report on grounds of failing to address the JP case which was the reason he was hired to do his damage control, for failing to involve First Nation voices. What Plecas did do is backtrack privately on his quite silly notion that the work of the Children’s Representative may no longer be required within two years…..but the MCFD didn’t share that… http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/child-welfare-road-map-too-ambitious-letter-1.2243700#sthash.Q4gNnQsl
The second leak involved a report from the Conflict Commissioner concluding that Clark receiving $50K/year partially funded by her corporate donors through her party did not constitute a conflict of interest under the law. (What the public overwhelmingly thinks is another matter) The report was given to the Speaker, but before it was tabled in the legislature (protocol) Christy Clark’s communications man Ben Chin was allegedly on the phone to friendly reporters hinting the contents were favorable to government. http://thetyee.ca/News/2016/05/05/Clark-Cleared-Critics-Want-Answer/
There is a lot wrong with these two incidents. The Speaker’s office is suppose to be unbiased and non-partisan. Two leaks within a week which advantaged the government in some way puts Speaker Linda Reid’s office in a spot of trouble, which she made worse by attacking Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafonde, an independent officer, using inappropriate terms like “contempt of parliament”. Look in the mirror Ms. Reid, or better yet, read this informal legal opinion.