In the wake of an exposé by theBreaker, cabinet ministers Michelle Mungall and Scott Fraser have withdrawn from speaking at a fall conference that is aimed at boosting the NDP government’s brand.
Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources Minister Mungall and Indigenous Relations Minister Fraser were scheduled to be the keynote speakers at “Politics, Policies and Priorities: A Conference on B.C.’s New Horgan Government” Oct. 27 at the taxpayer-owned Vancouver Convention Centre. Tickets — $245 until Sept. 15, when the price will rise to $295 — are being marketed to lobbyists.
Suntanu Dalal, a representative of Mungall, confirmed Aug. 24 to theBreaker that Mungall and Fraser are gone from the agenda.
theBreaker noticed Aug. 23 that promoter Composite Public Affairs no longer included references to Mungall and Fraser on its website. No reason was given by the government for their withdrawal. A call to the phone number on the event website was not returned. The website does not indicate whether refunds will be offered to anyone who bought tickets to hear Mungall and Fraser speak.
Composite Public Affairs was incorporated June 27 by four people, including Mungall’s July 18-hired ministerial assistant Lori Winstanley. The conference website includes an invitation from retired Surrey NDP MLA Sue Hammell, who is an executive vice-president of Composite but not an officer of the company, according to its registration.
Winstanley and Ed Presutti of Vernon and Kristy Fredericks and Will McMartin of Surrey incorporated the company two days before the NDP and Greens defeated the BC Liberals in a no confidence vote.
Winstanley is a longtime NDP campaign manager who worked in the Mike Harcourt administration in the 1990s and later for MoveUp, the union that represents workers at ICBC. Fredericks and McMartin are former BC Conservative strategists who publish the B.C. Political Reports newsletter.
Composite hired one-term former NDP MLA Jane Shin to emcee the conference, with panel moderation by Province columnist Michael Smyth. Featured panellists include ex-B.C. Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair, Vancity director and former Vision Vancouver Park Board chair Niki Sharma, Vision Vancouver city councillor Andrea Reimer, economist Iglika Iginova of the left-wing Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives thinktank, and Simon Fraser Univeristy Labour Studies director Kendra Strauss.
Organizers also scheduled BC Liberal-friendly panellists, such as ResourceWorks executive director Stewart Muir and Business in Vancouver vice-president Kirk LaPointe.
Sharma unsuccessfully ran for Vancouver city council in 2014. She was one of four Vision Vancouver politicians who appeared before an Oct. 14, 2014 meeting of the city’s outside workers union to appeal for donations. Then-councillor Geoff Meggs led the delegation and told union members that a re-elected Vision Vancouver city council would not contract out work. Union officials later voted to donate $34,000 to the ruling party, which was matched by the B.C. and federal headquarters.
Meggs quit city council to become the $195,000 chief of staff to Premier John Horgan. A by-election to replace Meggs is scheduled for Oct. 14. Horgan’s office also includes $125,000-a-year communications aide Sage Aaron, a Vision Vancouver campaign veteran and daughter of Hammell.
The short-lived, post-election BC Liberal government cancelled the Nov. 28-30 LNG in B.C. conference after the June 12 cabinet swearing-in.