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February 27, 2013

BC Liberal Organizers on Government Payroll

Component 8: "Hire three ethnic organizers on a six-month trial basis to contact targeted ethnic groups around the swings to build robust contact lists with email, names, phone, cell and addresses - as well as notes about likely support to be updated regularly.
There are a lot of grey areas with respect to what is appropriate and what is not for political party staff, caucus staff and political staff in government (ministerial assistants and the like who are appointed by order-in-council). All of the people working in those three distinct categories are partisans who on their own time are likely to attend political conventions and events, but there is nothing grey about putting party organizers on the government payroll for the purpose of collecting voter identification information for the BC Liberal party's election database.

It probably surprises no one that governments try to build support in ethnic communities by catering to their media, issuing documents in multiple languages and attempting to learn about their unique concerns. That can be not only smart politics but also good public policy.

The Liberal "Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan" was so secret the political staff behind it, headed by the Premier's Deputy Chief of Staff, used their private email accounts on services like Shaw, Telus and gmail rather than using government accounts. Despite those attempts to hide the plan, it leaked and was disclosed by the NDP in question period on February 27th. Global TV reporter Jas Johal obtained further information which he reported exclusively on Global's 6:00 pm news, including the names of the organizers who were hired and instructions given to them on how to report the data they collected on ethnic voters.

John Yap, Minister Responsible for Multiculturalism, was nominally the head of the strategy, but the documents are clear it originated in the Premier's Office. After question period Yap claimed the documents only discussed an old plan; however, the report by Global's Johal debunked that claim when it showed the list of organizers who were hired.

Premier Clark should denounce what happened and immediately fire all the staff who were involved. Putting party organizers on the public payroll for the purpose of doing party work is theft.