VICTORIA - A government aide at the heart of a scandal over B.C. Liberal efforts to woo ethnic voters was prepared to offer a job to dissuade someone who apparently had the potential to embarrass Premier Christy Clark before the election, an email appears to suggest.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix highlighted the September 2012 email Monday during question period and demanded to know what information could be so damaging that a Liberal staffer might be willing to hire a malcontent to keep the person quiet.
"Why would the government do that?" Dix said in the legislature.
"Why would the government offer a financial inducement to silence a staff person who could damage the premier and the Liberal party?"
Dix was referring to an email included in 10,000 pages released by the government on its open government website as part of the investigation into a scandal last spring about Liberal efforts to gain so-called "quick wins" in ethnic communities.
John Dyble, the premier's deputy minister, conducted a review that found the work lines between the B.C. government and the provincial Liberal party were clearly crossed in a government effort to win ethnic votes. The review caused Clark's popularity ratings to plunge and forced the resignation of her multiculturalism minister and of two Liberal insiders.
Near the end of the documents released as part of the government's response to the scandal is an email from Brian Bonney, a former communications director who was named in Dyble's report for misuse of government resources. Before Dyble's report was issued, Bonney left government for a job in the private sector.
The email highlighted by the NDP is heavily redacted. But part of it suggests former cabinet minister Harry Bloy "meet with her and explain how doing anything would damage the premier and the party. Have him say how he will try to find her work and get her back involved."
The email goes on to suggest that if the response to that tactic doesn't work, "Brian" should meet her and do the same.
If the unnamed person still can't be convinced, "if need be, offer x dollars per month to do non-public work up to election (developing her database of potential supporters.)"
The email is signed Brian Bonney.
Bonney could not be immediately reached for comment, and there's no indication if a job was actually ever offered.
Newly appointed Multiculturalism Minister Teresa Wat provided no explanation for what was being discussed in the email, nor who was the subject of it.
Instead, she repeatedly noted that Clark had called a review into the ethnic vote strategy and had apologized for it.
"The language and ideas contained in the draft document are all wrong," Wat said.
"Our premier has shown strong leadership and has taken responsibility by ordering a full review of this incident. A full report was delivered, and the government has accepted all the recommendations."
Wat was later grilled by reporters outside the house about whether she would look into the NDP's allegations.
"I wasn't the multiculturalism minister then. I wasn't involved in this report. I don't know what the specifics are in that report, and all I can say is let's move on," she said and then urged reporters to ask the author of the email what he meant.
Wat said the government has been completely transparent in the investigation, noting all 10,000 pages are posted online for anyone to see.
But Dix said the Liberals have never addressed the issue raised by the email.
"I'm sure it will be news to the Liberal caucus and to the people of B.C. that the premier took full responsibility for an effort to silence an employee who would damage the premier and the Liberal party before the election. She did no such thing," he said.
He also noted the documents were released after the election.
Correspondence that appear in the documents on the open government website in the pages before the email show a community liaison worker who helped organize events in ethnic communities was extremely frustrated about communication with the Yap's office.