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Cultural Development Mister Bill Bennett (left) says Gabriel Yiu’s employment as a multiculturalism facilitator for the NDP is in “suspicious” juxtaposition with the fact that he has run for office twice and is a candidate in the upcoming election. Mr. Bennet is pictured here with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross in Vancouver on January 22, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Cultural Development Mister Bill Bennett (left) says Gabriel Yiu’s employment as a multiculturalism facilitator for the NDP is in “suspicious” juxtaposition with the fact that he has run for office twice and is a candidate in the upcoming election. Mr. Bennet is pictured here with Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Duncan and Haisla Chief Councillor Ellis Ross in Vancouver on January 22, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Ethnic outreach controversy: Liberals say NDP strategy ‘suspicious’ Add to ...

British Columbia’s governing Liberals raised questions Thursday about an NDP caucus advisor hired to facilitate outreach to the Asian community.

Culture Minister Bill Bennett is asking questions about the $372,275 that public accounts show Gabriel Yiu has earned since 2007 as a caucus employee with the opposition New Democrats. Mr. Yiu has run twice for a seat in the legislature and is a candidate in the May election.

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“There is clearly suspicious circumstances with a guy who has run three times for the NDP who, between elections, seems to do this multicultural outreach work and collects this public money,” Mr. Bennett said.

Mr. Bennett noted that Mr. Yiu, according to his own website, facilitated “communication outreach to the Asian community at large.”

Ironically, a Liberal government document that caused one of the most tumultous weeks in recent B.C. politics refers favourably to Mr. Yiu.

“Using the Chinese-Canadian community as an example, we suffer from the lack of a Gabriel Yiu-type figure, who can be deployed rapidly and speak knowledgeably on the issues of the day,” said the January 2012 multicultural strategy that was overseen by Kim Haakstad, formerly the deputy chief of staff to the premier.

Last week, the NDP opposition released the document, which called for the use of government resources to win support in ethnic communities. The resulting controversy forced the resignation of Ms. Haakstad and saw the multiculturalism minister, John Yap, step aside pending the outcome of an investigation by Ms. Clark’s deputy minister.

But New Democrats – and Mr. Yiu himself – noted that he has been a properly hired and compensated caucus employee who took leaves or quit during each of two unsuccessful runs for the legislature.

Mr. Yiu, a businessman and media commentator, has run twice for the New Democrats. In 2005, he was a candidate in Burnaby-Willingdon. In 2009, he was a candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview, where he will be running again in the May 14 election.

Caucus chair Shane Simpson said Mr. Yiu was appealing to the NDP because of the help he could offer in ethnic outreach. “He brought a lot of the skills that we thought we might be looking for to assist our efforts in the Chinese community primarily,” he said.

But Mr. Simpson said Mr. Yiu has always been on leave or not on contract whenever he has sought elected office. He is not now employed by the caucus, having left when he secured the Fraserview nomination.

“I just think it’s trying to change the channel on a situation that’s quite fundamentally different from the multicultural strategy that’s been in front of the public for the last number of days,” he said. “I understand what they’re doing. It’s not simply the same situation.”

Mr. Yiu echoed that rebuttal, calling the Liberals “desperate” in an interview. “They are trying to shift focus,” he said.

Editor's note: Kim Haakstad, former deputy chief of staff to B.C. Premier Christy Clark, did not write a memo on ethnic outreach by the premiers' office. This story has been corrected.

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