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March 14, 2013

Major Liberal #Fail on Quick Wins

Shortly before the last question period on the last day the BC Legislature sat before the May 14th election, Deputy Minister John Dyble released his report into the Liberal's Quick Wins scandal, formally titled "Review of the Draft Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan". The government said it could not post the report on its website because of privacy concerns; however, the full report and a summary of its highlights is available on the Georgia Straight's website.

Some might say that all political parties pander to multicultural communities so what's the big deal. The difference between what the Liberals did and what others do is as different as night and day. The Premier and her colleagues repeatedly apologized for the leaked memo and its clearly inappropriate language about achieving quick wins as well as its confusion over the separation between party and government. With the release of the Dyble report there were more resignations and the Liberal party repaid $70,000 to the government because one of the staff behind the scheme, Brian Bonney, was found to have spent half his time on party business. Dyble was not able to investigate the Liberal party or the Liberal caucus so questions remain on the transfer of private information from the government to the Liberal party. Individuals who attended some of the multicultural events that were part of the scheme later received materials from the Liberal party leading to them make complaints. Those people should have been interviewed but Dyble didn't have that authority.

In question period following the release of the report the response of the Premier and her caucus was anything but contrite and humble. Using Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett as their spokesperson in response to almost all questions, listeners heard a series of attacks on the NDP related to its use of pooled constituency resources. The NDP had obtained approval of the Legislative Comptroller for each of its MLAs to contribute $200 per month to a fund that was used to purchase resources for common use, primarily the services of Gabriel Yiu who translated documents for the caucus. The funds were administered by the Legislative Comptroller's office; not one dime involved the party. The Auditor General subsequently disagreed with the Comptroller over the appropriateness of the fund, at which time its operation ceased.

If you look at many of the reports of the Auditor General you will find disagreements between the Comptroller General (the government's chief financial officer, not to be confused with the Legislative Comptroller) and the Auditor. In some cases the government refuses to make changes and simply says it is a disagreement between accountants, a primary example being the reservations on the government's financial statements contained in the Public Accounts. The NDP's situation with its pooled fund is equivalent to those disagreements; it is in no way similar to the covert operation run by staff in the Premier's and Ministerial offices. Nevertheless, instead of being remorseful, the Premier and her colleagues went on the attack, apparently attempting to deflect its deeds by mudslinging and distorting. Unfortunately, that is likely to be what voters will see in the Liberal election campaign, which will be a sharp contrast to the tone Adrian Dix will set.