B.C. Liberals complain about new, publicly funded NDP-Green office

Rob Shaw, Postmedia Network

British Columbia Premier-designate, NDP Leader John Horgan speaks outside Government House after meeting with Lt-Gov. Judith Guichon in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

British Columbia Premier-designate, NDP Leader John Horgan speaks outside Government House after meeting with Lt-Gov. Judith Guichon in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 29, 2017.

VICTORIA — The incoming NDP government’s plan to spend public money on a new office to manage its political relationship with the Green party is a misuse of taxpayer funds, the B.C. Liberals allege.

The Liberal party filed a written complaint to acting Comptroller General Carl Fischer on Monday, saying the new Confidence and Supply Agreement Secretariat announced in premier-designate John Horgan’s office will inappropriately use public service resources for political purposes.

“By placing this so-called Secretariat within the Office of the Premier, this political office would be funded and supported by the B.C. Public Service resources,” Liberal MLA Andrew Wilkinson says in his letter.

“British Columbia’s public servants are required to serve the citizens of British Columbia through the administration of public services. They are not employed to oversee and support political agreements between parties.”

The letter alleges the office violates the B.C. Public Service’s Standards of Conduct, and asks Fischer to rule on the matter before the NDP is sworn into power on Tuesday.

The secretariat’s office will manage the power-sharing arrangement between the Greens and NDP that was signed in late May and gave the NDP the one-vote advantage in the legislature that allowed it to topple the Liberal government June 29 on a confidence vote. The agreement stipulates that the Greens be consulted in major policy decisions, briefed on and given access to NDP government briefing material.

“Our commitment to work with the B.C. Greens lays the foundation for our new government, and that’s why we’re appointing a small team to support the policy priorities in the Confidence and Supply Agreement,” the NDP said in a statement Monday. “This team will help deliver stable government that works for people, and we will follow any advice from the Comptroller-General to ensure the activities of the office fall within acceptable practices.”

The NDP has not provided the salaries or cost of the new office, though it would be funded using public money out of the premier’s office. However, it did name as executive director Donna Sanford, who is the sister of the NDP’s deputy director and the wife of former Victoria mayor Dean Fortin.

Wilkinson said in an interview it was “simply not appropriate” to use public money and public servants to do a job that should be paid for by the B.C. New Democratic Party.

“That should be done by the political parties, not by the public service or anyone on the public payroll,” he said. “That is a job by the parties to maintain their relationships between themselves ... government and the government payroll is funded by the taxpayer to provide services to the public, not to provide services to two political parties.”

rshaw@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/robshaw_vansun