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MLA Must Step Away from Justice Role During 'Quick Wins' Probe

Why is former minister mired in Liberal outreach scandal still working for BC’s attorney general?

Bill Tieleman 1 Oct

Bill Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at [email protected] or visit his blog.

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Former multiculturalism minister John Yap resigned in the wake of the 'quick wins' scandal, but won re-election in Richmond-Steveston May 14. He is now parliamentary secretary to the attorney general and justice minister. Photo via Facebook.

"An apparent conflict of interest exists when there is a reasonable apprehension, which reasonably well-informed persons could properly have, that a conflict of interest exists." -- former Ontario Supreme Court chief justice William Parker, 1987

Why is BC Liberal MLA John Yap still serving as parliamentary secretary to the attorney general and justice minister while RCMP and a special prosecutor investigate the ethnic outreach scandal?

Yap resigned from cabinet as B.C.'s minister responsible for multiculturalism after it was revealed that activities in his ministry crossed the line from government work to partisan politics at taxpayer expense.

A report by Premier Christy Clark's deputy minister John Dyble concluded "lines between party work and government are clearly crossed" in a meeting Yap attended with ethnic outreach staff.

The staff involved, Dyble wrote, "breached the Standards of Conduct in the blending of coordination of ministry and partisan events."

Yap also admitted his ex-staffers Brian Bonney and Mike Lee used private emails to avoid Freedom of Information requests, violating government legislation.

And for good reason.

An email Yap received from Lee's personal account told him: "It is absolutely critical that we do not leave any evidence" about assistance hiring three ethnic outreach community liaisons that Yap knew, the Dyble report says.

"I made a mistake here, and I'm owning up to it. I've learned the hard way that was not appropriate," Yap said in March.

So why is Yap still in a key position as assistant to Attorney General Suzanne Anton, while the RCMP and special prosecutor David Butcher probe possible Elections Act violations and potentially lay charges?

It's simple: Yap must go

It's called apparent conflict of interest -- and it's obvious that Yap shouldn't hold his position while the investigation takes place.

Indeed a Sept. 26 BC Criminal Justice Branch statement said the appointment of a special prosecutor was made: "as the investigation could include members of government and/or government employees."

Yap may be completely innocent of any wrongdoing, but that's not the point.

What's important is that Yap, someone likely to be questioned about ethnic outreach issues, not be at the same time in a prominent position in the ministry responsible for supervising police and justice.

It's really not complicated. Yap simply has to go.

After all, look at what happened in March 2013:

Yap was out as minister responsible; Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad and Yap's executive assistant Mike Lee resigned for their roles in those so-called "quick win" activities; and the BC Liberal Party paid the province $70,000 to compensate for the inappropriate partisan work done by government staff.

Later the NDP made allegations that Bonney, as communications director for the multiculturalism ministry, offered a job to a disgruntled staff person involved who had information that "would damage the Premier and the (Liberal) party" -- according to an email sent by Bonney.

B.C. New Democratic Party leader Adrian Dix triggered the current investigation by sending a private letter containing new information about the scandal to the RCMP.

That information has not been made public, but it obviously was sufficiently important to warrant the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The BC Criminal Justice Branch statement said that no word about the appointment had been released until then "at the specific request of the RCMP to safeguard the integrity of the investigation in its early stages."

Clark survived the ethnic outreach scandal to win the May election, but she should not put political loyalty to Yap ahead of the integrity of the investigation. Yap must go until it concludes.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics

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