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HomeBusinessExclusive: Union official to the rescue after Minister Mark muffs message

Exclusive: Union official to the rescue after Minister Mark muffs message

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Bob Mackin

Just two days after Minister Melanie Mark’s embarrassing admission that she is clueless about proportional representation, help arrived in her office.

An Oct. 29 NDP cabinet order announced Mike Eso’s appointment to the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Training through the end of February. Eso is the top B.C. Government and Service Employees Union official on Vancouver Island and president of the Victoria Labour Council.

Melanie Mark (left) at her 2016 swearing-in with Mike Eso (right). (Berson)

A representative of Mark’s ministry, who refused to allow his name to be published, said longtime NDP supporter Eso was seconded and will be paid up to $49,000.

“He will be providing additional capacity in the minister’s office as the government continues to work to deliver on its mandate,” according to a prepared statement. “His focus will be on coordination of cross-government priorities, and policy development and implementation.”

Eso is listed as a donor of $156,810 to the NDP, mainly through his VLC role.

During a proportional representation Yes campaign photo op in her Mount Pleasant riding on Oct. 27, Mark told reporters from Global BC and CBC  that “I do have a degree in political science, but I’m not an expert in electoral representation.” Mark, who is the minister responsible for universities and colleges, was unable to explain the choices British Columbians face in the mail-in referendum through Nov. 30.

BCGEU’s Component 7 includes locals that represent workers at the B.C. Institute of Technology and Justice Institute of B.C., both institutions that are regulated and funded by Mark’s ministry.

Mark’s office directory shows Liam Iliffe is her senior ministerial assistant, Michael Snoddon her ministerial assistant and Christina Rzepa her executive assistant. She also has an administrative coordinator and administrative assistant.

Iliffe’s wife, Sheena McConnell, is Premier John Horgan’s press secretary. Snoddon is one of B.C.’s two representatives on the NDP’s federal executive. Rzepa is a cellist and president of the Vancouver Mount Pleasant riding association.

Lecia Stewart (left) and Layne Clark (The Stewart Group)

Meanwhile, the daughter of ex-Premier Glen Clark is now working for a transit infrastructure lobbyist.

Layne Clark spent almost a year as Horgan’s director of liaison and coordination. She quit in July to join The Stewart Group, a company headed by Lecia Stewart, the ex-journalist and B.C. Transit bureaucrat who Glen Clark picked in 1997 to oversee what became SkyTrain’s Millennium Line.

Stewart was fired with a $402,000 golden parachute in 2001 after Gordon Campbell led the BC Liberals into power. The Stewart Group describes itself as a “boutique consulting firm offering strategic advisory services in transportation, with a particular focus on urban rail projects.” It specializes in “bid and pursuit strategies, procurement support, and advocacy development.”

Stewart was involved in the SNC-Lavalin-involved bid to build the $2.1 billion Ottawa Confederation Line LRT extension. Her firm also held six-figure contracts with City of Edmonton and City of Surrey’s LRT offices.

In 2013, she scored an $80,000 no-bid TransLink contract to consult on the agency’s regional transportation and long-term funding plan.

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