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Opinion

BC Libs Give Secret Payouts, but No One Pays for Breaking the Rules

Don't expect much more than a 'tut tut' for these taxpayer abuses.

By Bill Tieleman 22 Jul 2014 | TheTyee.ca

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist whose clients include unions and businesses in the resource and public sector. Tieleman is a regular Tyee contributor who writes a column on B.C. politics every Tuesday in 24 Hours newspaper. E-mail him at weststar@telus.net or visit his blog.

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Don't expect Finance Minister Mike de Jong to do much more than look troubled by stinky salary supplements for senior government staffers. Photo: BC Gov't Flickr.

"Honesty pays, but it don't seem to pay enough to suit some people." -- Kin Hubbard, American humorist, 1868-1930

When the rules on how much senior government-funded staff can make are broken once, it's regrettable; when it happens time after time, it's a clear pattern of intentional deception.

That's occurred repeatedly as already highly-paid B.C. bureaucrats are found to be getting extra payments that are banned by government policies, but those doing the hiring deliberately violated them.

And it's not just payments for new hires -- you can flagrantly break conflict of interest rules on the way out of your cushy government job worth $465,000 a year and still get a $114,000 severance package.

Senior heads should roll for these outrageous abuses of taxpayer dollars, but BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong just says "tut-tut" and does little more than ask for some money to be returned or request a partial roll back of the pay for those caught out.

Stinky supplements

The latest in a long string of stinky salary supplements was last week, when we learned the chief executive officer of the BC Cancer Agency was hired in 2012 for $500,000 a year when the maximum allowed was $400,000.

The minister wants that salary rolled back $50,000, so it would then only be $50,000 over the limit. That's how de Jong gets tough.

Then it was the Royal B.C. Museum's turn, where its CEO also wrongly got a "secondary contract" worth over $50,000, including three business class flights to London, England a year.

But wait, there's more. Michael Graydon, the ex-head of the BC Lotteries Corporation, got a severance package even though he quit to take a job with Paragon Gaming, a private company doing major business with BCLC.

BCLC asked Graydon to pay back $55,000, but if he doesn't, well, nothing will likely happen.

'Troubling,' indeed

Before that, New Democrat MLA David Eby triggered a government investigation into the secret $50,000 payment to Kwantlen Polytechnic University president Alan Davis to take his current job.

Who was vice-chair of Kwantlen's board of directors that put through the undisclosed "pre-employment contracts"? Amrik Virk, now minister of advanced education and responsible for making sure such things don't happen!

Virk first denied anything was wrong and accused Eby of "fishing," but a government report confirmed it all -- yet he still has the cabinet job. And then-Kwantlen board chair Gord Schoberg, who was also involved in the contract, was not terminated.

"Troubling" and "disappointing" is what de Jong calls these cases.

But what's "troubling" and "disappointing" is that Premier Christy Clark has not fired either Virk for misconduct or de Jong for incompetence.

In fact, Clark said of Virk: "I have spoken to him and have absolute confidence in him and his ability to serve as minister of advanced education."

After all, who better to enforce the rules than someone caught breaking them?

Paying for incompetence

Ironically, the B.C. government wouldn't be in its current mess with Michael Graydon if it had taken my advice back in 2010 and fired him with cause and without severance after the BC Lottery Corporation was fined $670,000 for more than 1,000 violations of the federal Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.

The Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada fined the BC Lottery Corporation because it misfiled 1,020 reports for casino transactions over $10,000.

Graydon reportedly said that the reports were filed late because of technical glitches and human error. But the mismanagement still stands.

But hey, why worry about any of this? Taxpayers will pick up the BC Liberal tab for incompetence once again.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics,

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