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The British Columbia Legislature in Victoria. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)
The British Columbia Legislature in Victoria. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

Justine Hunter

MLA wrong to lead appointment process after critical audit, watchdog says Add to ...

British Columbia’s Auditor-General John Doyle says B.C. Liberal MLA Eric Foster should not have taken part in a decision to end the watchdog’s tenure after Mr. Doyle’s office had conducted a probe into the MLA’s spending.

The MLA for Vernon-Monashee heads the committee that this week reversed itself and offered Mr. Doyle an extension on his contract. Despite that softening, Mr. Foster offered a frosty response to the auditor on Thursday, demanding that Mr. Doyle quickly make up his mind about whether he will accept the new contract.

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The all-party committee headed by Mr. Foster has been under fire since it launched a search for a new auditor-general. The B.C. New Democrats disavowed any role in rejecting Mr. Doyle, leaving the Liberal government looking like it was punishing an effective watchdog.

The compromise offer was extended only after intervention by Premier Christy Clark last week.

The Auditor-General is still unhappy with the process, saying it was tainted by Mr. Foster’s involvement. The chairman of the committee was the subject of a random audit of his constituency spending by Mr. Doyle’s office, although the auditor’s critical findings did not become public until the committee had voted to replace Mr. Doyle.

“My view is, if you have been the subject of an audit report and you are now in a position of looking at appointing a new auditor-general, it would have been wise to step aside and allow someone else to manage the process,” Mr. Doyle said Thursday.

It’s the first time Mr. Doyle has commented on the matter, and he said he has not decided whether he will accept the compromise offer to grant him a two-year extension to his contract.

Mr. Foster did not return calls but issued a statement to the media. “Mr. Doyle has reapplied for the job as Auditor-General and an offer is now on the table. Mr. Doyle needs to let British Columbians know if he accepts this offer or not,” the statement read. “Premier Christy Clark recognizes the flaws in the current appointment system and we are moving to take politics out of the process.”

Mr. Doyle’s audit was critical of the process that allowed Mr. Foster to submit a $78,000 bill to taxpayers for renovations to his community office. The building is owned by the in-laws of one of his assistants. Mr. Foster earlier said he was unaware of the audit until after he had stepped into the spotlight as the head of the committee that is to choose B.C.’s next auditor-general.

Mr. Doyle also said he was troubled by a question from Mr. Foster during the closed-door interview conducted by the committee to determine whether he would be granted a second term as auditor.

“That made it quite clear to me that I had good reason to doubt his objectivity in respect to his role as chair,” Mr. Doyle said. He said he raised his concerns with the Clerk of the House, but he hasn’t decided how he will follow up. He did not elaborate on what Mr. Foster had asked.

Follow on Twitter: @justine_hunter

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