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Liberal must explain welfare-to-work overpayments: NDP

A B.C. Liberal Party candidate whose former company received more money than it should have from the provincial government must explain to voters what happened, said his New Democratic Party opponent.

“It's his opportunity to set the record straight if he wishes to do that, and I think he should,” said Lana Popham, the NDP candidate in Saanich South. “I think he owes us an explanation.”

Popham and the Green Party's Brian Gordon are running against Liberal candidate Robin Adair. Before entering politics Adair was the vice president for government relations and communications for WCG International Consultants Ltd., a company that provides job placement services for people on welfare.

A finance ministry audit shows WCG and other employment contractors were paid at least $1 million and as much as $6.5 million they should not have been, the Tyee reported after obtaining the audit through a freedom of information request.

Adair's campaign manager said Adair was unlikely to speak to the Tyee. Adair did not call back by posting time.

A story on the website of Victoria's CFAX radio quoted Adair saying he is the "victim of political gamesmanship" and that this is an old issue being brought up because he is running for political office. "He maintains that while he worked in the communications branch of the company, he had absolutely no decision making roles," the story said.

Adair was a vice president of WCG. The province's lobbyist registry shows he contacted several MLAs on behalf of the company, including Premier Gordon Campbell, Health Minister George Abbott, Education Minister Shirley Bond and Advanced Education Minister Murray Coell.

“Here we have a close friend of the Liberals, who's done very well by that relationship, seeking to be elected,” said Rob Fleming, an NDP incumbent running in Victoria-Swan Lake. “This is a company that was supposed to be paid to transition people from welfare to work and ended up putting itself on corporate welfare.”

It's disturbing that the provincial government continued to overpay the contractors even though earlier audits had uncovered similar problems, he said. “Instead of being fixed, it happened again.”

Meanwhile the Victoria Times Colonist continues to identify Adair as a “former television anchor”, including in an April 22 story, ignoring his more recent work.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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