The B.C. government has quietly posted more than 10,000 pages of documents this week related to the ethics scandal that dogged Premier Christy Clark’s government last spring.
The release fulfills a pre-election commitment to make public the material collected for an internal probe that found an elaborate and wide-reaching ethnic outreach scheme, which had been driven by senior political aides.
The release comes just as Ms. Clark’s government is defending a post-election restructuring of government that gives a number of top political staffers higher pay scales and greater responsibility.
Last March, Ms. Clark’s deputy minister, John Dyble, produced a damning report on a secret multicultural outreach strategy after a series of embarrassing leaks. Mr. Dyble concluded that several government officials breached the public service code of conduct and that public resources were misused for political purposes – money the B.C. Liberal Party was forced to repay.
On the government’s website, the huge trove of documents that were collected for the Dyble investigation were released on June 11 – a collection of e-mails, calendars and other correspondence tying some of the Premier’s top political staff before the election to a plan that would use government resources to help boost the B.C. Liberals’ election chances on May 14.
At the same time the documents were being posted, the Clark government was under fire for upgrading a number of political aides to new ministerial chief-of-staff positions.
The restructuring, approved by Ms. Clark just weeks after the election, was prompted in part by the ethics scandal. The Premier’s chief of staff, Dan Doyle, concluded that more accountability is needed from the minister’s offices through their senior political aides.
But the new structure was not publicly announced, which allowed the opposition New Democrats to capitalize on a secretive shuffle that allows for higher pay for political appointees.
Mr. Doyle had been planning the changes for some time but had waited until after the election, sources said, to implement his plan. The new regime creates 19 new chiefs of staff, one for each ministry of government. That change included new pay scales, although the total bill for political staff in the Clark government remains at roughly $5-million annually.
The changes are driven by the need for clearer lines of responsibility as a result of the shortcomings that were exposed by Mr. Dyble, the sources said. Last spring, the leaked multicultural outreach strategy showed Ms. Clark’s then-deputy chief of staff had led the creation of a plan that blurred the lines between government and party work.
In the documents released this week, much of the correspondence flows from the ministry of multiculturalism, created to promote the government’s ethnic outreach – which happened to fit with the B.C. Liberal Party’s desires to increase its voter share among multicultural communities. As one senior bureaucrat described it in a Sept. 26, 2011 e-mail, “The bulk of the work has been speaking notes, meeting notes, proclamations, etc. Busy work and not strategic.”
Under Ms. Clark’s new political team, that work became strategic. The ethnic outreach plan aimed to co-ordinate efforts between the B.C. 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.
The documents, posted on the government’s “Open Information” website, do have large sections blanked out for privacy reasons or to protect advice to cabinet. For example, the contents of a letter from Jason Kenney, the federal Minister for Multiculturalism, to then-jobs minister Pat Bell about the temporary foreign workers program dated Dec. 14, 2012, is entirely deleted.