Greetings, Minister Ralston and Minister of State Chow.
May I call you Bruce and George?
Let’s cut to the chase.
Which one of you, or your staff, bought a $16 orange juice on your Asian junket earlier this year?
Did anyone get dinged $250 for smoking in a non-smoking hotel room?
Come on, ‘fess up.
Your underlings are acting just like you committed a Bev Oda.
She was the Conservative cabinet minister who enjoyed only the finest orange juice and smoking where she was not allowed during a trip to London’s posh Savoy Hotel in 2011. It led to her becoming an ex-cabinet minister.
Today, staff from your ministry dug in their heels and thumbed their collective noses at taxpayers. They told me it would cost $510 to see all the receipts from the late January/early February trade mission, on which you and four other public servants from the Jobs, Trade and Technology ministry traveled on the taxpayer dime to China, South Korea and Japan. They claim it would take 20 hours to do the work — work that can be performed pretty easily in less than two hours.
The public has already paid for your entourage’s travel and the public has already paid for the filing and processing of the expense reports. To suggest that I, on behalf of the public, must pay a single dollar, let alone $510, to see how public money was spent is, frankly, absurd and wrong.
Your staff did send me a summary of spending. They say the mission cost $291,487, of which $223,552 came from your ministry. You were accompanied by B.C. trade representatives Paul Irwin, Francis Acquarone and Richard Sawchuck, for a cost of nearly $25,000.
Deputy Minister Fazil Mihlar and the two of you spent $30,737. And then more than $168,000 on “general mission costs,” such as $80,000 in meetings, ceremonies, lunches and receptions. Plus $51,000 on interpreters and translators.
Sure would be nice to see all the receipts, to know whether taxpayers really got value. Or whether they were stuck paying for fancy orange juice and misbehaviour.
Your staff told me to go fish around travel expenses website for some of your receipts. But they won’t get me all of your receipts and they won’t give me any of the receipts for your staff.
Unless I pay $510.
This only validates what United States Senator and open government advocate Patrick Leahy famously said:
“Indeed, experience suggests that agencies are most resistant to granting fee waivers when they suspect that the information sought may cast them in a less than flattering light or may lead to proposals to reform their practices. Yet that is precisely the type of information which the FOIA is supposed to disclose, and agencies should not be allowed to use fees as an offensive weapon against requesters seeking access to Government information….”
While your party was in opposition, Christy Clark and the BC Liberals jetted off to Asia several times. When NDP caucus researchers and the media asked to see their travel expense receipts, they were released at no cost.
Fancy that! Those triple deletin’ BC Liberals were being transparent and accountable on travel spending and now you’re not!
The NDP has already been caught deleting. Now the NDP has been caught gouging.
Heck, let’s call a spade a shovel. The NDP government sent me an information ransom note.
Is this what Better B.C. really looks like?