The B.C. government has promised to get to the bottom of whether public resources were used for political purposes in wooing ethnic votes, but it appears answers won’t come as fast as the deputy premier suggested.
Rich Coleman read an apology from Premier Christy Clark in the legislature Thursday, saying the leaked strategy document that laid out plans to court the province’s ethnic communities before the May 14 election appeared to cross the line.
Coleman said then he should know within 24 hours what went wrong and how but on Friday the premier’s office issued only the terms of reference for the review.
They include a pledge to conduct interviews and review all documents related to the leaked strategy paper, which the Liberals refer to as a draft.
Those involved in the investigation include Coleman, the deputy ministers of finance and open government and the head of the B.C. Public Service Agency.
Coleman’s staff said he would be unavailable for comment on Friday, but the minister tweeted he had been given an update on the investigation.
“For the record, been given an early summary in 24hrs, the terms of reference are out, a number of interviews needed. Plan progressing,” said Coleman’s tweet.
He included no details of what the summary said, but said in a further tweet: “I am satisfied with the first steps to review what occurred here and fully support (Christy Clark).”
NDP House Leader John Horgan said he’s concerned the Liberal government’s planned review of its proposal to woo ethnic voters doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t include the Liberal party or the party caucus.
Horgan said he expects the review will take several weeks, and referred to Coleman’s statement about answers being provided in 24 hours as political bravado.
“That was typical Mr. Coleman hyperbole,” Horgan said. “When Mr. Coleman said he would be done in 24 hours, what I expected was some sort of sacrificial lamb being held up on the altar on contrition.”
As the fallout continued Friday, the Liberals were forced to explain that two of three riding association presidents who resigned recently quit their jobs well before the strategy plan was leaked.
One person resigned last week and the other on Feb. 7, but a Liberal spokesman speaking on background said it’s unclear why the third riding president quit.
Peter Fassbender, the Liberal candidate in the Surrey-Fleetwood riding, said his riding president has resigned, but that he had been aware for weeks she would be leaving for personal reasons.
“I think it’s unfortunate when anything like this happens,” Fassbender said in an interview, adding he doesn’t think the issue will affect the election campaign.
“The premier has apologized, which I give her a lot of respect for, and she’s taking what I think are the appropriate steps because it is a very unfortunate situation.”
The January, 2012 document leaked to the NDP and released Wednesday outlines a proposed outreach plan involving the premier’s office, the multiculturalism ministry, the government caucus and the B.C. Liberal party.
The 17-page paper includes eight strategy components, including advice for so-called “quick wins” gained by correcting historical wrongs.
The document also includes several references to tailoring government and Liberal news to the ethnic media, ensuring there is proper translation.
Use of taxpayer resources for political purposes is forbidden.