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HomeBusinessExclusive: Ex-premier got a headstart to use “The Honourable” title, but it was invalid from the get-go

Exclusive: Ex-premier got a headstart to use “The Honourable” title, but it was invalid from the get-go

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Bob Mackin

The former BC Liberal Premier billed herself “The Honourable Christy Clark,” before ex-speakers and ex-cabinet members were told of the Government House proclamation that purported to allow them to use the title.

ChristyClark.com

As theBreaker.news reported in May 2018, Clark launched her new website a year after the provincial election that led to the end of her political career. In promoting herself as a motivational speaker-for-hire, Clark used “The Honourable” in the headline and throughout her bio. 

Clark was following an April 18, 2018 proclamation by outgoing Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon that gave former speakers, former cabinet members and Clerk Craig James the entitlement under a policy devised by James. Guichon’s term ended six days later when Janet Austin was sworn-in.

In June 2011, three days after Clark was sworn-in as the Vancouver-Point Grey MLA, the BC Liberals used their majority in the Legislature to promote committee clerk James to chief clerk, rather than let an all-party committee decide the successor to George MacMinn.

In July 2017, James met with Clark in Vancouver on her final day as premier. They met at least three times more after she left office, according to receipts released with Speaker Darryl Plecas’s January report on waste and corruption to the Legislative Assembly Management Committee. What Clark and James discussed is not known. Clark did not respond to an email sent by theBreaker.news to her address at Bennett Jones. 

One of those Clark-James meetings was May 2, 2018. Two days later, on May 4, 2018, the registration for ChristyClark.com was updated. The Clark domain had previously forwarded users to her Facebook page.

Four weeks later, on May 30, 2018, a major law firm’s news release heralded “The Honourable Christy Clark joins Bennett Jones in Vancouver” as a senior advisor. Clark is not a lawyer and has only an honorary doctorate from a South Korean women’s university. 

James retired in disgrace last month after being found in misconduct for wrongly taking a $258,000 pension allowance and spending $8,000 on suits and luggage for personal use. James and suspended-with-pay Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz remain under RCMP investigation.

theBreaker.news has learned from the clerk’s office that Clark had a headstart. She marketed herself as “The Honourable” in May 2018, but it was not until June 2018 that the clerk’s office began to send correspondence to notify former speakers and former executive council members that they were eligible to use the title.

Clerk Craig James swore Christy Clark in as Westside-Kelowna MLA in 2013, near Clark’s Vancouver office. (Facebook)

As fate would have it, Clark and the rest were not really allowed to be “The Honourable.”

Why? The proclamation was invalid. 

“The Great Seal of the Province of British Columbia was not affixed to the documents, as stated in the text of each, nor were the documents counter-signed by the Attorney General,” wrote Attorney General David Eby to Plecas on Feb. 6. “These statutory requirements are set out in the Attorney General Act and Ministry of Provincial Secretary and Government Services Act. I am advised that staff in the federal Department of Canadian Heritage have indicated that these documents have no current legal effect.”

Independent watchdog Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC said British Columbians deserve a full explanation for the meetings between the clerk and ex-premier. 

“The fact process was not followed to the letter demonstrates yet again that the former clerk would often bend rules in order to achieve a goal and that’s been particularly the case when it’s a buddy,” Travis said. “I think that one of the potential pitfalls in all of this is, if all of the information people should have is not made available, then these types of things get missed.”

Acting Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd sent letters to former speakers and cabinet members last month to advise them that they cannot use “The Honourable.”

As of mid-June, the title still precedes Clark’s name on her personal website, law firm bio and on websites for Recipe Unlimited, InterAction Council and the Max Bell School for Public Policy. She is a director of the publicly traded parent company of Keg Restaurants and Swiss Chalet, an associate member of the think-tank for former heads of state and government and co-chairs the advisory board of the public policy school at McGill University. The 2018 news release announcing Clark’s appointment to the Shaw Communications board, however, did not include “The Honourable.”

The Department of Canadian Heritage allows a premier of a province to use the title only while he or she is in office. Those appointed to Privy Council, however, can use the title for life. The largely symbolic federal body includes current and former federal cabinet ministers, former chief judges, speakers and governors general.

The only Clark in the Privy Council is the former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark. The only ex-B.C. premier in the Privy Council is Ujjal Dosanjh, who received the title because of his time as the federal Liberal health minister.

Travis said the tempest over the title is another reason why British Columbians deserve full transparency, including an explanation for the Clark-James meetings and the release of the transcripts from retired Chief Justice Beverley McClachlin’s administrative probe of James and Lenz.

“This is another example of British Columbia charting a course on its own with no regard for convention, no regard for tradition, no regard for the parliamentary process and is continually out of step on many of these issues with the other nine provinces,” Travis said. “B.C. is a province, it’s not a private club; it should be administered as a province with a government, not a private club with executive meetings behind closed doors.”

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