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HomeNewsBC Liberals burn through executive directors like cheap sunglasses

BC Liberals burn through executive directors like cheap sunglasses

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Bob Mackin

The revolving door swings again at beleaguered BC Liberal Party headquarters. 

The opposition party has its fourth executive director in less than 13 months after Katy Merrifield’s departure. 

A stunning move. Merrifield was on the job only five months after managing the victorious leadership campaign of Andrew Wilkinson over presumed frontrunner Dianne Watts. Merrifield did not respond for comment on July 10. Neither did party spokeswoman Meghan Pritchard. Wilkinson confirmed the departure on July 11, calling it a resignation.

Sources tell theBreaker that was not so. The party’s sluggish fundraising in the post-big money era was a major issue and Wilkinson was not a happy camper.

Clockwise, from upper left: Miller, Scheffel, Chalmers and Merrifield (Twitter/Facebook)

Fundraising efforts have been focused around the anti-David Eby campaign on Vancouver’s Westside and West Vancouver, along with the anti-proportional representation campaign across the province.

The party website lists four events this summer, ranging from $25 Wilkinson appearances in Quesnel and Coquitlam to a $160 John Yap dinner at a Richmond Chinese restaurant. It won’t get any easier, because candidates for the Oct. 20 municipal elections are out with cap-in-hand. One of them could be Rich Coleman, who may run for mayor of Surrey.

The party is still without a membership chair after the sudden resignation of former Burns Lake Mayor Luke Strimbold, who was charged in March with sexual assault. 

Merrifield, who spent 18 months as Christy Clark’s communications director in 2016-2017, took over when Emile Scheffel ended his eight-month run as the replacement for Laura Miller. Scheffel joined Kinder Morgan pipeline contractor Kiewit as its communications manager for Western Canada. 

Miller ran the party’s heavily criticized, unsuccessful 2017 election campaign while she was facing breach of trust charges in Ontario. She was eventually acquitted in a case that saw her former boss in the Ontario Liberal government, David Livingston, jailed four months over the gas plants email purge and hard drive-deletion case. 

The party has no full-time replacement yet for Merrifield. Wilkinson’s deputy chief of staff, Jen Chalmers, will act as the interim executive director. 

Merrifield’s departure comes in a week when the party remains under fire for the casino money laundering scandal and a new report by the Auditor General on government surplus land sales, which focused on the bulk discount given party donor Wesbild for parcels on Burke Mountain in Coquitlam in 2014.

Under Wilkinson, the Liberals scored points late in the spring session of the Legislature when they revealed NDP ministers and mandarins were mass-deleting their email or using GMail. Heat from the opposition led to the NDP making amendments to its recreational property tax and payroll tax to replace MSP premiums. 

The BC Liberals lost power after 16 years when the NDP and Greens forced a post-election no confidence vote in June 2017. They reported $12.75 million in donations, but a whopping deficit of $7.36 million, to Elections BC for 2017.

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