Despite widespread criticism of its pandemic communications, the B.C. NDP cabinet promoted the bureaucrat in charge on April 28.
Don Zadravec dropped the assistant from his title, to become Deputy Minister of Government Communications and Public Engagement. He had been in charge of the department since last fall, when Donna Evans departed after a year-and-a-half in the job. The last entry in Evans’s calendar was the day before Premier John Horgan’s Nov. 26, post-election swearing-in.
GCPE was budgeted $28.3 million for the 2021 fiscal year.
Zadravec was part of the NDP cabinet’s day one communications appointees on July 18, 2017 as an executive director under GCPE Deputy Minister Evan Lloyd. He handled ministry support and media relations for Crown corporations and special projects before becoming the ADM of communications and media relations in September 2019.
The promotion will mean a significant pay raise. For the year ended March 31, 2020, Evans was paid $207,084 and Zadravec $146,404.
The third wave of the pandemic has heralded the end of the Horgan government’s honeymoon, as reporters across B.C. have called for more transparency and less confusion. Latest examples include the bungled announcement of the regional leisure travel ban, Horgan’s quip suggesting people in their 20s and 30s weren’t doing enough to battle the pandemic and various government websites errantly downplaying the airborne spread of the virus.
Zadravec is in his second tour of duty as an NDP-loyal bureaucrat. His previous stint was 1993 to 2000. He worked August 1999 to May 2000 in the Premier’s office, where interim NDP leader Dan Miller’s aide was future premier Horgan.
Zadravec later spent 10 years at National Public Relations. While there, he was registered to lobby for pipeline company Veresen.
National PR was also the previous career stop for the April 9-hired Jeffrey Ferrier. Ferrier is now executive director of communications for the Ministry of Health.
Ferrier, a former Ontario NDP operative, had been with National for two years as vice-president after five years at FleishmanHillard.
Ferrier’s lobbying client list boomed when the pandemic began. L’Oreal Canada, Uber, Sport Maska Inc., Sobeys Inc., Whirlpool Canada and Dollarama hired him to be their go-between with the NDP government on COVID-19-related issues.
Ferrier’s appointment by cabinet came several weeks after the government’s embarrassing “Self-Care Bingo” Tweet in late February. The lighthearted attempt to lift the spirits of pandemic weary British Columbians fell flat and led to an apology after gaining nationwide media attention.
Among the suggestions for peace of mind on the satirical bingo card was to build a blanket fort.
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