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HomeOpinionHow the sausage is made: B.C. government info mismanagement

How the sausage is made: B.C. government info mismanagement

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Bob Mackin

From time-to-time, theBreaker will show you how the sausage is made.

Warning, it will make you sick to your stomach how your government functions. 

Case in point, a timeline of how records about the Medal of Good Citizenship, the Clark government’s latest photo op scheme, were kept away from theBreaker until after one of the recipients, a party insider, died of cancer. 

April 29, 2016: Mike de Jong, Minister of Finance (who also oversees the government’s Freedom of Information office, Information Access Operations) hosts a ceremony in Abbotsford to present philanthropist Dave Holmberg the Medal of Good Citizenship. 

The news release makes no mention that Holmberg donated almost $65,000 (including $7,000 in February 2016) to the BC Liberal Party and was de Jong’s campaign manager. 

May 16: theBreaker applied to the Office of the Premier, where the government’s Honours and Awards secretariat is housed, for various records about the Medal of Good Citizenship program. 

Mike de Jong (left) awards donor/campaign manager Dave Holmberg the Medal of Good Citizenship (BC Gov)

Such as, documents about the planning and cost for the Holmberg ceremony and news release; agendas and minutes for the MGC selection committee (chaired by Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training Minister Shirley Bond); nomination forms for MGC recipients; and records about the design and purchase of the medals, ribbons and certificates. 

May 17: Government replied and set June 29 as its due date. 

June 29: Deadline day came and went, no word from the government. (The law says government has 30 business days to provide documents or invoke delays for third-party consultation or a transfer to another public body.)

Aug. 3: Finally, a denial letter from the Office of the Premier, saying that the Medal of Good Citizenship was now its own public body, under Schedule 2 of the Act. A July 11 ministerial order had been signed by de Jong, but nobody cared to tell theBreaker until almost a month later. (The order was actually signed July 8 by deJong). 

Funny thing: MGC was actually already subject to the FOI law, as per the disclaimer on the nomination form. Instead of notifying theBreaker earlier or transferring the request, as it must do, the government stubbornly played a legal shell game and told theBreaker to file new requests to MGC. 

Sept. 9: Because the government would not relent, new requests were filed.

Sept. 14: MGC replied, setting Oct. 24 as the deadline for it to respond to various files. 

Oct. 24: Deadline day came and went, no word from the MGC. 

Jan. 22, 2017: Holmberg, 75, dies of cancer. 

Jan. 25: Various files about MGC finally sent. 

The records show that staff of the Honours and Awards Secretariat inside the Premier’s office as well as the Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training ministry were actively involved, day-to-day, on the program. 

As reported by theBreaker, this award program cost almost $100,000 to set-up, including 275 medals. Only two dozen were awarded last year, so around 250 are waiting to be awarded.

The government created a script for politicians to answer, should any nosy journalist ever have the audacity to suggest that this program is about getting positive attention (read: votes) for BC Liberal caucus members.

It wouldn’t be the first time the Liberals have so shamelessly congratulated their own. 

Remember the public outcry in 2011 when ex-Premier Gordon Campbell and his longtime right-hand man Ken Dobell were given the Order of B.C.?

Remember how Burnaby MLA Harry Bloy (Clark’s only 2011 supporter from caucus) in 2012 gifted riding association president Pamela Gardner, Liberal field operations director Mark Robertson and ex-Bloy campaign manager Brian Bonney with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal?  

Wait and see what campaign 2017 brings. 

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