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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Clark’s bridesmaid, de Jong’s deputy bloviates on balanced budgets

Exclusive: Clark’s bridesmaid, de Jong’s deputy bloviates on balanced budgets

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Bob Mackin

One of the most-powerful people in the Clark Clique was Athana Mentzelopoulos.

The longtime and loyal Liberal bureaucrat became known as “The Bridesmaid” because she was part of Christy Clark’s wedding entourage. She held a variety of senior roles in Clark’s 2011 to 2017 administration.

Athana Mentzelopolous laughed all the way to the bank, with a $475,000 golden parachute (BC Gov)

Mentzelopoulos was the head of government communications in 2012 when the BC Liberals falsely claimed the RCMP was investigating a health data breach that sparked the unjust and wrongful firings of government researchers. Several defamation lawsuits and a suicide followed. 

In 2016 and 2017, she was the deputy minister of finance under Mike de Jong, who concealed a consultant’s damning 2016 report about money laundering at River Rock casino, for fear that it would cost the party votes.

Mentzelopoulos was fired on the last day of the 16-year BC Liberal dynasty with a $475,000 golden parachute. Clark signed the order-in-council. She became the Canadian Credit Union Association’s head lobbyist later in the summer.

In the waning days of her job as de Jong’s deputy minister, she starred in the Treasury Board’s boxing-themed video in pursuit of the Premier’s Award of Excellence. Mentzelopoulos’s interview was shot in her office May 25, more than two weeks after election day and just over a month before the minority BC Liberals were toppled by the NDP/Green alliance in a confidence vote on the “clone speech.”

Read the nomination form, obtained under the freedom of information law: “We would like to tell the story of how government was impacted by the global recession of 2008 and faced the challenge of returning to a balanced budget while maintaining critical services of health, education, and social services, with a focus on the creative and diligent work guided by [Treasury Board Secretariat] through the strict caps on adminstrative expenditures, bureaucratic accountability, and a focus on government priorities which lead (sic) to the tabling of five consecutive balanced budgets.”

“We would like to have interviewees in a professional business setting, juxtaposed with a series of shots/scenes taken at a local kickboxing gym [Peterec’s Kickboxing Gym]. We would like to use voicover through a series of visual metaphors that tell the story of how Treasury Board staff had to be ‘fiscal warriors’ training, pushups, sparring, etc. ie. ‘To knock out a deficit you need to be… disciplined, tough, work as a team’, etc.”

Career politician de Jong

In a Jan. 24 column in The Tyee, longtime BC Liberal and former bureaucrat Tex Enemark declared the “so-called” balanced budgets “a fraud” because the Finance Ministry looted financially troubled, taxpayer-owned monopolies BC Hydro and ICBC. (Coincidentally, Enemark’s younger brother, Gord, is an executive director in the Treasury Board Secretariat and worked under Mentzelopoulos.)

“The only ones who care about balanced budgets are those seeking talking points or who do not, in fact, believe in government,” Enemark wrote. “You would be surprised how many ministers in the Clark government just did not believe in government.”

The Clark Clique played a grand game of doublespeak. While touting artificially balanced budgets, they drove up the debt. B.C.’s debt ballooned from $45.2 billion in 2011 to $66.7 billion through March 31, 2017. The budget that leadership wannabe Mike de Jong delivered in February 2017 forecast a $77.7 billion debt by 2020. 

Clark toured the province in a motorcoach during the 2013 election that was emblazoned with the “Debt Free B.C.” campaign slogan. Between the 2013 and 2017 elections, the BC Liberals put the province a further $10.85 billion in the hole. 

The NDP’s John Horgan succeeded Clark as Premier in July 2017. When the awards were doled out last November, the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch — not the Treasury Board — won the organizational excellence category for liquor law reform. The Public Service Agency published the video anyway on its YouTube page. Dated Nov. 2, 2017, by Jan. 26, 2018, it had attracted the grand total of 163 views. 

Outtakes from Mentzelopoulos’s interview were obtained by theBreaker, under the freedom of information law.

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