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HomeMiscellanyFrom one banana republic to another: BC Liberal Reid on South America junket

From one banana republic to another: BC Liberal Reid on South America junket

Bob Mackin

A government official from a figurative banana republic visited her counterpart in a literal banana republic. 

News outlets in Guyana reported Jan. 18 on the visit by British Columbia Speaker Linda Reid, the BC Liberal MLA for Richmond-East. Reid and Guyana National Assembly speaker Barton Scotland signed an “interparliamentary co-operation” partnership on Jan. 17. 

BC Liberal Reid’s Guyana visit hits the front page. (Guyana Times)

The British Columbia-Guyana agreement talks about improving “understanding of the functions of both institutions, particularly in the fields of legislation, culture, economics, health, science and technology, and generally reinforce greater friendship, goodwill and mutual understanding of traditions, customs, procedures and practices of each House.”

It is the equivalent of a sister-city arrangement that opens the door for more British Columbia government officials to visit Guyana and vice versa. “The costs of such meetings would be shared to the extent that each jurisdiction has the resources to do so,” the agreement says. “Where this is not possible, each Group will seek funding from a donor agency.”

Reid traveled to the birthplace of colonial B.C. governor James Douglas with B.C. Deputy Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd and Hansard Director Rob Sutherland. They departed Jan. 18 from Guyana, where temperatures were forecast to reach 29 Celsius under the sun. (Back home in Reid’s riding, the forecast high was a rainy 10 Celsius).

The excursion cost B.C. taxpayers an estimated $10,000.

Reid did not respond for comment, but Ryan-Lloyd told theBreaker on Jan. 19 that she estimated the cost of her airfare and accommodation at the Marriott would be around $3,000. “I believe it was the same for my two companions,” Ryan-Lloyd said. 

The three-person delegation left Vancouver Jan. 15, arrived in Georgetown the next morning and returned Jan. 18. The trio’s hosts picked up the cost of most meals, Ryan-Lloyd said. A complete expense report will be published under the Legislature’s quarterly disclosures. 

Ryan-Lloyd said Canadian provincial Legislatures have been encouraged to twin with Commonwealth nations, particularly in the Caribbean, to help raise parliamentary standards. Guyana is the only English-primary South American jurisdiction and its 65-seat Legislature is comparable to British Columbia’s 85-seat house. 

More than half of Guyana’s exports are raw gold, followed by rice and paddy, bauxite, sugar and shrimp and prawns, according to Statistics Guyana. Canada is fifth on the South American nation’s imports list, but tops the exports list. Through October 2016, Guyana estimated it sent nearly US$350 million of products north to Canada.

Word of Reid’s visit to the nation of 750,000 comes just days after an embarrassing New York Times story about B.C.’s lack of laws regulating the size, frequency and source of political donations. Premier Christy Clark receives a $50,000 bonus from her party for attending big ticket fundraisers every year, on top of her $195,000 public salary. Democracy Watch alleges she is in conflict of interest, but conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser says no. Fraser’s son is Clark friend and government communications deputy minister John Paul Fraser. 

A Transparency International report in 2016 criticized federal and provincial officials for failing to protect British Columbians from real estate-related money laundering and tax evasion. No Reason to Hide: Unmasking the Anonymous Owners of Canadian Companies and Trusts said more rigorous identity checks are done for individuals getting library cards than for those setting up companies or buying real estate. 

Guyana has the same ranking on Transparency International’s annual list of corrupt countries as Azerbaijan, Russia and Sierra Leone, according to a report in the Starbroek News in January 2016. 

In 2014, Transparency International’s local office called for local government elections to be held. There had not been any since 1994 “although the law requires them to be held every three years.” Local elections were finally held in March 2016. 

Last May, President David Granger was quoted in a Demerera Waves news report saying: “I urge you, all Guyanese, to be vigilant not only against the abuse of power by the government but also by the abuse of trust by the private sector.”

In March 2014, Reid was embarrassed into repaying $5,528.16 for business class flights to South Africa taken by her husband, who joined Reid for a parliamentary conference in August and September 2013. The couple enjoyed a safari while on the junket.

At the time, I asked repeatedly to see proof of Reid’s repayment. She never responded. Career politician Reid is seeking a seventh term in the May 9 provincial election. 

Assistant Deputy Speaker Raj Chouhan, an NDP lawmaker, also went on the trip and repaid $2,200 for his wife’s flight. 

Reid was widely criticized in 2014 for blowing $120,000 on various frills, including a $48,000 desk with a touch screen computer and a $700 snack case.