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John Yap speaks to reporters after stepping down as minister responsible for multiculturalism over his party’s ethnic voter outreach plan at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on March 4, 2013. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)
John Yap speaks to reporters after stepping down as minister responsible for multiculturalism over his party’s ethnic voter outreach plan at the B.C. Legislature in Victoria on March 4, 2013. (Chad Hipolito for The Globe and Mail)

Premier apologizes for ethnic voter plan as minister resigns Add to ...

B.C. Premier Christy Clark offered up a second resignation on Monday for a plan to use public resources to prop up her BC Liberal Party’s electoral fortunes, saying she will take responsibility for an ethnic voter strategy developed with input from key members of her staff.

Five days after the BC NDP opposition released a leaked multicultural outreach strategy, Ms. Clark finally appeared in the legislature on Monday with an agenda for damage control, apologizing not just to the public but to her own caucus.

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“British Columbians deserve to know that not only am I sorry but that I am prepared to accept responsibility and make sure that I do whatever is necessary to address the mistakes that were made,” Ms. Clark told the House. She announced that her minister of multiculturalism, John Yap, has stepped aside pending an investigation being conducted by her deputy minister, John Dyble.

The document was circulated on private e-mails by the Premier’s deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, who resigned Friday. Several others in the Premier’s office who were consulted on the plan to “break down the silos” between government, caucus and the party remain on the job.

The Premier maintains she knew nothing of the plan and would have axed it had she been aware. She said her long-time confidant, Ms. Haakstad, clearly was involved. “She oversaw its creation, there is absolutely no question about that,” Ms. Clark said, “and there is no question she should have put a stop to what was in the documents. She didn’t.”

The NDP released new documents on Monday showing that members of the Premier’s office were providing feedback on what was to be a co-ordinated effort between the BC Liberal Party and the government to improve fundraising and build the party’s database in advance of the May 14 election. It said “quick wins” could be had by apologizing for historical wrongs affecting certain ethnic groups and building a stable of supporters to call in to radio talk shows.

Ms. Clark has been under pressure from her own Liberal MLAs to show a strong measure of contrition, and it appears her apologies and commitment to action have quelled what had threatened to spread into an outright rebellion.

After meetings with her cabinet and caucus on Sunday and Monday, Ms. Clark said she has the support of her MLAs, although several Liberals refused comment. Harry Bloy, who was the minister responsible for the multiculturalism portfolio when the plan was drafted, shoved his way through a media throng without responding to questions.

The Premier acknowledged on Monday that she should have returned to the legislature last week rather than leave others in her caucus to deliver her regrets for the affair. Asked if she has considered resigning herself, Ms. Clark told reporters: “Let’s not prejudge the outcome of John Dyble’s report, let’s see what the results are. … We will likely be required to take further action. And I will take that action.”

There are now two investigations underway into the multicultural outreach plan, which was forwarded to key government and party officials early in 2012 by Ms. Haakstad. In addition to the investigation by Mr. Dyble, Liberal caucus chair Gordie Hogg said he is conducting an internal investigation.

“I’m certainly disappointed with the way this has played out and frustrated with it,” Mr. Hogg told reporters. “I don’t want to condemn anybody until we have the facts.”

Mr. Yap, speaking to reporters, said he made up his mind over the weekend to step aside. He said he was blindsided when the NDP released the leaked plan, that he was unaware of its existence.

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