Premier apologizes for ethnic strategy
VICTORIA – Premier Christy Clark issued a statement Thursday apologizing for a leaked internal document that describes using non-partisan government staff resources to improve the party's standing with ethnic communities.
Clark wasn't in the legislature Thursday. Her statement was read by deputy premier Rich Coleman, promising an investigation to be conducted by John Dyble, Clark's deputy minister and head of the public service.
"The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach [to ethnic communities] and it is unacceptable," the statement says. "The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate."
During an uncharacteristically quiet and sombre question period, Coleman vowed that the investigation would be completed and released quickly. Speaking to reporters afterwards, Coleman said the consequences could include firing of people involved in the plan, and he expects a summary of findings by Friday.
NDP house leader John Horgan said the involvement of senior premier's office staff means Dyble is not sufficiently independent to do the review. Horgan focused on the memo's references to using government staff to compile lists of people in ethnic communities for use by the B.C. Liberal Party, describing it as a violation of public service legislation.
The January, 2012 strategy document refers to "quick wins" for popularity with ethnic voters, referring to a 2008 apology in the B.C. legislature for turning away a ship carrying Indian immigrants from Vancouver harbour in 1914.
Advanced Education and Multiculturalism Minister John Yap said Wednesday the government is planning an apology to the Chinese community for charging a head tax on Chinese immigrants in B.C.'s early years.
Coleman said the B.C. apology, for a federal immigration policy repealed in 1935, has been in the works for more than a year and will likely still go ahead before the B.C. legislature adjourns March 14 for the provincial election campaign.
The memo was distributed by Kim Haakstad, Clark's deputy chief of staff. Recipients included Pamela Martin, the former TV anchor hired by Clark as her director of outreach, and Lorne Mayencourt, the former Vancouver MLA who serves as director of outreach for the B.C. Liberal caucus.
The memo calls for a variety of strategies to improve relations with ethnic communities, including identifying supporters to contact ethnic media. "We had a lot of white small business people telling Chinese-Canadians the HST was good," it states.