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Clark apologizes for leaked document, launches review

Premier Christy Clark is apologizing for the content of a multicultural outreach document that outlined her office's plan to use government resources to woo ethnic voters to the BC Liberals.

The NDP's house leader, John Horgan, says the apology doesn't go far enough and that a promised investigation needs to be independent.

Deputy premier and government house leader Rich Coleman said he was upset and disappointed by the document and that the investigation could lead to terminations.

"I have now had the opportunity to read the draft outreach document and I want to sincerely apologize to British Columbians," said a printed statement from Clark, who was not in the legislature today.

"The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach and it is unacceptable," she said. "The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate."

Yesterday the NDP released a leaked 17-page document that included detailed plans for coordinating government, caucus and BC Liberal Party resources to re-engage with ethnic voters. Clark's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad sent the plan by email on Jan. 25, 2012, to people in the premier's office, government caucus and BC Liberal party.

Clark said she is asking her deputy minister, John Dyble, "to conduct a review to ensure that no government resources were inappropriately used" before determining what further actions to take.

"We need a far broader investigation by someone arm's length from the premier's office," said the NDP's Horgan. "This is another quick fix for the government. This is not the time to try and push this under the rug. This is a profound breach of serious policies and statutes."

This is the third time in recent months the Liberals have been caught using government resources for partisan purposes. Previous examples included work by legislative staff on a BC Liberal website attacking NDP leader Adrian Dix and a plan to maximize political gain by rebuilding the Burnaby Hospital.

"It strikes me that since Ms. Clark was elected to lead the Liberal party and then subsequently entered the legislature as the member for Vancouver-Point Grey, (she) and her office have been singularly focused on campaigning," said Horgan. "They have not governed in two years."

Coleman said the terms of reference for the investigation will be released, as will a written report of the findings. "I wasn't involved in this at all," he said. "My intention is to make sure we follow through as the premier has said."

He said he was upset yesterday when he learned about the document. "This is unacceptable and there will be consequences," he said. "The consequences of bad behaviour can go all the way up to your termination and I think that those are the issues that are going to have to be dealt with very quickly."

Coleman said he expects to have answers within the next 24 hours.

Asked how high he expects responsibility goes, the NDP's Horgan said, "I would expect it will go right to the premier."

He noted that Haakstad has worked closely with premier Clark for 20 years.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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