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News

Close Aide to Premier Clark Resigns

Controversy over leaked Liberal plan to win ethnic vote claims the job of Kim Haakstad, a longtime ally.

By Andrew MacLeod 1 Mar 2013 | TheTyee.ca

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

The controversy over the recently leaked Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan has claimed the job of Kim Haakstad, a longtime ally of Premier Christy Clark.

"Kim reached her decision after much consideration of her roles and responsibilities," Clark said in a short statement released late Friday afternoon. "Consistent with circumstances of resignations, no severance payment applies."

It was Haakstad who on Jan. 10, 2012, from her personal gmail account, sent the draft plan to colleagues in the premier's office, the government caucus and the BC Liberal Party.

That 17-page plan discussed strategies to use government resources to win ethnic support and votes for the Liberals. Tactics included using government contacts to build the party's database and looking for political "quick wins" by apologizing for historical wrongs such as the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, where a shipload of immigrants from India were barred from disembarking in Vancouver.

Earlier on Friday, the government had announced the terms of reference for an investigation into the plan.

In his Feb. 28 comments about the Multicultural Outreach document, New Democratic Party house leader John Horgan had noted the close working relationship between the premier and Haakstad. "The premier's closest adviser, Kim Haakstad, has been working with her for almost 20 years."

Longtime aide

Haakstad was most recently Clark's deputy chief of staff in charge of operations. But, as The Tyee has previously reported, the relationship goes back much further.

In a piece on Clark's inner circle, Sean Holman wrote that Haakstad was arguably just as influential as then chief of staff Mike McDonald. "Haakstad has long played a key role in Clark's political decision-making, being both a workhorse and body man -- accompanying the premier wherever she goes," he wrote.

The bond goes back to at least 2001. When the BC Liberals formed government, and Clark became a cabinet minister and deputy premier to Gordon Campbell, it was Haakstad who was named her executive assistant, then later her ministerial assistant.

When Clark moved from education to children and families in 2004, Haakstad moved with her.

They worked closely together until 2005 when Clark announced she was leaving politics to spend more time with her family while her son was young. Haakstad herself would leave just three months later.

In her time away from the legislature, Holman reported, Haakstad worked for the federal Liberal Party as its executive director in B.C., as a senior manager for the Karyon Group and as executive director of the liquor lobby group Alliance of Beverage Licensees.

Haakstad also stayed involved in Clark's political career. When Clark sought the Non-Partisan Association's nomination in 2005 to run for mayor of Vancouver, which she lost narrowly to Sam Sullivan, Haakstad served as Clark's campaign director.

When Clark entered the leadership campaign to replace Campbell in Dec. 2010, it was with Haakstad as a close aide.

And when Clark won her way into the premier's office, Haakstad came too.

Review launched

On Feb. 28, deputy premier Rich Coleman read Clark's apology to the legislature over the leaked strategy, a statement that said Clark's deputy minister John Dyble would "conduct a review to ensure that no government resources were inappropriately used."

Outside the house, Coleman told reporters he expected the review to be quick and complete. "I expect answers within the next 24 hours," he said.

"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."

Twenty-four hours later the government had failed to announce any terminations or answers, but did release a more detailed terms of reference for the review.

Along with looking at the use of government resources, Dyble is to determine whether any violations of the Public Service Act were committed.

The review will include the premier's office, the ministry of advanced education, innovation and technology and minister responsible for multiculturalism, the ministry of jobs, tourism and skills training, and the intergovernmental relations secretariat. It will also include the main public relations shop, government communications and public engagement, as well as relevant ministers' offices.

The announcement also added three senior bureaucrats to the investigation team: deputy finance minister Peter Milburn, head of the B.C. public service agency Lynda Tarras, and deputy minister of citizens' services and open government Kim Henderson.

The review is "to be conducted immediately with findings reported as expeditiously as possible" and a written report is to be provided, it said.

Quick enough for Coleman? He wasn't responding to interview requests, but tweeted, "For the record, been given an early summary in 24hrs, the terms of reference are out, a number of interviews needed. Plan progressing."

A few hours later, Clark announced Haakstad's resignation.  [Tyee]

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