The B.C. Liberal government planned to spend almost $100,000 to launch Premier Christy Clark’s Medal of Good Citizenship program, theBreaker has learned.
But the ruling party knew that doling out the badges and diplomas would be seen by an increasingly skeptical public for what it really is: yet another photo opportunity to build the image of non-stop-campaigning government politicians, like cabinet ministers Shirley Bond, Michele Stilwell, Todd Stone, Amrik Virk, Peter Fassbender, Steve Thomson, Norm Letnick and Clark herself.
An April 4, 2016 Question and Answer script, obtained by theBreaker, included a script of anticipated questions and recommended responses.
“This looks like a political exercise to give government MLAs a photo opportunity in their community,” said one of the questions.
The recommended reply was: “Medals are being given to recipients who live in all parts of the province and regardless of what party holds the riding. They are being presented by the premier and in many instances it is cost effective to delegate the presentation to another representative in the province.”
Another question: “How much are you spending on these ceremonies?
Another answer: “Government is balancing the need to manage costs while honouring the contributions of these individuals. The community celebrations limit the travel costs and other costs associated with a big gala.”
If pressed, politicians and public relations representatives were told to say: “The full cost of the all the celebrations will be fully calculated when all the medals have been presented.”
According to the freedom of information documents, the program’s first year budget was $95,182. The report mentioned that government communications photographer Don Craig could be used at “no cost.” Craig is officially a graphic designer who was paid $71,997 for the year ended March 31, 2016.
The budget included $21,231 for travel and hospitality for staff and the committee (for both meetings and ceremonies), and $65,500 for the 275 sets of medals, lapel pins, ribbons, boxes and framed certificates.
The suppliers were B.C.-based, except the ribbons came from Toye, Kenning and Spencer Ltd. in Bedworth, England, for $351.25. Pressed Metal Products of Vancouver charged $87.50 each for the full-sized silver medals.
Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond chairs the 2015-appointed selection committee, which includes Clark friend and BC Liberal campaign strategist Jatinder Rai. Bond’s ministry initially forked out $51,162.25 for the medals from Pressed Metal Products and one of her public relations staffers helped coordinate ceremonies. Bond’s appointment lasts until October 2017, which is presumptuous because of the May 9 election.
Bond’s committee met initially on Nov. 25, 2015 and Jan. 7, 2016 at the cabinet office in Vancouver. Clark’s chief protocol officer Lucy Lobmeier and members of the government Honours and Awards office were in attendance.
The Nov. 25 meeting included a portion during which nominees were shortlisted and no minutes were taken. No minutes were disclosed for the Jan. 7 meeting. The committee decided at its first meeting that groups would be eligible for the award in exceptional circumstances and that the medal could be awarded for acts of bravery.
In its first year, there were 22 individuals and groups recognized, including Dave Holmberg, the late ex-campaign manager of Finance Minister Mike de Jong. Abbotsford philanthropist Holmberg, 75, died Jan. 22 of cancer. He donated almost $60,000 to the BC Liberals through 2016.
Honourees are allowed to wear the lapel pin on the right (not the left, like the Order of B.C. or Order of Canada). They can also order additional lapel pins or miniature medals and place M.G.C. after their name.