'All for ourselves and nothing for other people' seems in every age of the world to have been the vile maxim of the masters of mankind. -Adam Smith "All the 'truth' in the world adds up to one big lie." Bob Dylan "Idealism precedes experience, cynicism follows it." Anon

September 13, 2011

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order



Chain The Dogma

The Order of British Columbia is Out of Order

by Perry Bulwer



The Order of British Columbia (the Order)  is an honour awarded yearly by an advisory council administered under Provincial legislation. The purpose of the award is "... to recognize persons who have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of British Columbia or elsewhere."

I don't usually give much thought to this award when it is announced, but a controversial appointee made me and many others  pay attention this year. I'm referring to the former Premier, Gordon Campbell,  who was convicted of drunk driving near the beginning of his tenure, which ended with him resigning in disgrace this year with a voter approval rating of just 9%,  making him the all time least popular Provincial Premier in Canada.


 Mug shot of Gordon Campbell in Hawaii after arrest for drunk driving


Many people objecting to Campbell's appointment base their arguments on a misunderstanding of the legislation, on the timing of the appointment or of its apparently political nature. But I think those arguments miss the main point, which is that Campbell simply does not deserve the honour, now or ever. Some people misread the legislation and thought Campbell was ineligible for the Order this year because he was nominated while still holding office. The first rule of statutory interpretation is to take the words in the legislation in their literal and plain sense as in a dictionary. Adjudicators first assess the common understanding of words and phrases, and in the case of the Order of British Columbia the Provincial Symbols and Honours Act states in section 17 (2):

A person who is an elected federal, provincial or municipal representative is not eligible to be appointed a member of the Order while that person remains in office.

It refers clearly to the appointment, not the nomination. Because of the confusion over that point, however, the Chief Justice of British Columbia, who is also the chairperson of the advisory council, issued a very brief clarification. He did not need to rely on any legal reasoning or citation because of that rule of interpretation. He simply wrote, without further explanation: “The nomination package for Mr. Campbell was received on March 10, 2011. Mr. Campbell was appointed to the Order of British Columbia on Sept. 2, 2011. At that time, he was not an elected MLA.”

Although Campbell was clearly eligible on that basis, some still object over the timing of the nomination. Campbell's tenure as Premier did not officially end until March 14, 2011, yet the nomination package for him was received by the advisory council on March 10, 2011. He had made public comments a few months earlier that he would be stepping down, still, the rush to nominate him is well out of order. Campbell is only the second of 35 B.C. Premiers to be appointed to the Order. The only other one, Bill Bennett, was not appointed until many years after he left office. So why the rush to anoint, I mean appoint, Campbell, especially given his mixed record? It smacks of political bias, which is another argument being made against the appointment.

Political columnist, Bill Tieleman,  points out that "... most members [of the advisory council]  have political or governmental connections to the former Campbell government." He goes on to highlight the political chicanery, scandals and corruption that occurred not only under Campbell's government, but involved two other persons receiving the Order this year who also are strongly connected to Campbell. Ken Dobell, Campbell's own former deputy minister who unethically deceived the citizens of British Columbia, and David Emerson, who notoriously and unethically deceived voters by switching federal political parties just days after being elected. As Tieleman writes: "... honouring Campbell, Emerson and Dobell is merely the latest manifestation of this entire province being out of order." Even if there was no actual political bias in the selection of appointees for the Order this year, there is certainly the appearance of bias. Either way, the prestige of the Order has been seriously diminished by the appointment of corrupt politicians, which casts a shadow over those ordinary citizens who were deservedly appointed over the years.

Although Tieleman, one of Campbell's most vociferous critics, complains of the hastiness and overtly political appearance of appointing Campbell to the Order, he does note that, "Regardless of Campbell's failings, he has made a long contribution to public service as a Vancouver councillor, mayor, MLA and premier." That may be accurate, but is a long contribution to public service enough on its own to be appointed to the Order? According to the legislation, appointees must "... have served with the greatest distinction and excelled in any field of endeavour benefiting the people of British Columbia or elsewhere." There is no doubt that Campbell has greatly benefited personally from his public service, but has his long public service benefited the people of B.C.? It all depends on who you ask.

It is difficult to imagine any poor person agreeing that Campbell's public service has benefited them. British Columbia has the lowest minimum wage in Canada, and for seven straight years had the worst child poverty rates in Canada, all thanks to Campbell's policies. Shortly after he took office, he began to wage a war, not against poverty, but against poor people. His government tightened the rules for social welfare eligibility, denying benefits to thousands of people and putting thousands of disabled people already receiving benefits through the unnecessary stress of requalifying. I know, because I've seen the fears and tears up close. Meanwhile, as Campbell increased corporate welfare for his business friends, poverty and homelessness increased.

Go ahead, ask those many thousands of British Columbia children who live in poverty thanks to Gordon Campbell if they think he deserves to be appointed to the Order, or if he deserves his appointment to the prestigious, cushy, lucrative post of High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Ask the thousands of homeless and almost homeless people in B.C. what they think of the fact that Campbell will receive a government pension of around $100,000 on top of the nearly $200,000 plus free home and personal servants he will receive as Commissioner to the UK.  On the other hand, a single disabled person in B.C. receives only around $11,000 a year, (non-disabled get far less) with the housing portion of that amounting to just $375 a month. It is nearly impossible to find decent accommodation anywhere in the province for that amount. That means everyone receiving social assistance must either spend part of the money meant for food and other essentials to get a decent place to live, or live in sub-standard housing. Some choose or are forced to live on the street.

Instead of reducing poverty in B.C., Gordon Campbell's policies directly increased poverty causing untold misery for the very people he supposedly was serving. With service like that he shouldn't get a lucrative tip, like double-dipping into taxpayers pockets. I suppose the advisory council considers that serving with distinction and excelling in his field of endeavour. According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the status quo regarding poverty in British Columbia costs the government between 8 and 9 billion dollars a year, whereas a comprehensive poverty-reduction plan would cost between 3 and 4 billion dollars. So, not only did Campbell cause great harm to many thousands of poor people and their children, his neglect of those citizens cost the taxpayers of B.C. several billions of dollars each year he was Premier.

The advisory council who appointed Campbell to the Order ignored the facts of his dismal failure to help the most vulnerable citizens and lift them out of poverty during his public service, which in turn would have benefited all citizens. That ignorance gives credence to the claims of political bias in the appointment. But the council was not alone in rewarding Campbell despite his war against the poor. So too did the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, who appointed Campbell to his UK post. That is really no surprise since Harper also ignores the poor. Around four million Canadians, including more than one in seven children,  live in poverty yet the Harper government recently refused to accept the evidence-based recommendations of a Parliamentary committee to develop and implement a poverty-reduction plan.  One in seven Canadian children  in poverty amounts to over one million poor children. It is a national disgrace for one of the richest countries in the world, yet Prime Minister Harper shows more compassion and concern for the welfare of cats  than children. His official website  demonstrates that clearly. The home page under Family Center provides information on how to foster or adopt pets, but nowhere can you find any concern for the welfare of a million children suffering the indignity of poverty.

The Order of British Columbia is awarded to any British Columbian (or former long-term resident) who has demonstrated outstanding achievement, excellence or distinction in any field. However, there does not appear to be any consideration of the moral and ethical standing of a nominee. At least no such consideration is set out in the legislation, and no relevant question is asked on the nomination form. If such things are considered, they are left to the discretion of the advisory council, chaired by the Chief Justice of the Province. Apparently, no one on the council objected to the facts surrounding the immoral, unethical, and at times illegal actions of Campbell, Emerson and Dobell. Nor did they see the apparent irony of appointing a homelessness activist in the same year as Campbell who helped create much of that homelessness. Of the fourteen people appointed to the Order of British Columbia this year,  only the three conservative politicians on the list had the ability to both benefit and harm the people of British Columbia. It is hard to see, for example, how Karen O'Shannacery of Vancouver, a tireless advocate for homeless people who was also appointed to the Order this year, could cause any harm to British Columbians in the way that Gordon Campbell and his political and corporate cronies did.

If ordinary citizens of British Columbia, not corrupt political, legal, or corporate elitists, could choose appointees to the Order, it is possible that they would still select Gordon Campbell, but I think it would be for the following reason.




UPDATE October 7, 2011


The induction ceremony for the Order of B.C. took place on October 4, and guess who didn't show up. Gordon Campbell not only didn't attend the ceremony, he refused to explain his absence. What does this mean? Does Campbell recognize that he doesn't deserve the honour, has declined his induction into the Order, and will return any medal or benefit that accompanies the award? Or does Campbell's absence and silence indicate he recognizes the controversy over his appointment, and fears attending the ceremony would do more to reignite that controversy than simply ignoring it would? If the reason he couldn't attend was a matter of an unavoidable scheduling conflict, then why didn't he simply instruct his office staff to respond with that excuse to inquiries? Whatever this snub and silence means, it is typical of how Campbell governed, so considering the source I suppose it is a  response we should have expected.

10 comments:

  1. Former BC premier's lobbying against clean fuel laws 'shocks' enviro who gave him award.

    By Geoff Dembicki, Today, TheTyee.ca

    Former Liberal Party of B.C. premier Gordon Campbell could once count Tzeporah Berman among his closest environmental allies. But that was before he took a prestigious diplomatic posting in Europe and began lobbying against one of the world's most wide-ranging clean fuel laws.

    Now Berman, who last year became a lead climate change campaigner for Greenpeace International, told The Tyee in a free-swinging phone interview that she is "shocked" by Campbell's role in an "absolutely reprehensible" oil sands industry offensive that makes her "embarrassed" to be a Canadian.

    The only reason she helped him win B.C.'s 2009 provincial election and presented him months later with a high-profile award at the Copenhagen Climate Conference, Berman said, was for his "courageous" support of North America's first carbon tax.

    With Campbell now playing down the environmental impact of Alberta's oil sands in a bid to keep European climate policy from spreading across the planet, Berman isn't even sure he deserves credit for that anymore. ...
    ...
    In Edinburgh, Scotland, late last month, Campbell joined the offensive, telling BBC News that "the oil sands have the same kind of impacts as many other sources of energy globally. To pick out one doesn't answer the problem."

    Canada actually exports very little oil sands bitumen to Europe, but officials fear that European Union climate initiatives could be copied in Asia, or even worse, by the United States, the industry's biggest consumer. Campbell went on to explain to the BBC that Canada takes climate change very seriously, and has "an enhanced regulatory code" for the oil sands.

    There was no mention that Ottawa cancelled plans this year to regulate the industry's emissions; or that Canada's environmental commissioner, Scott Vaughan, doubts the federal Conservative government can even meet its modest national emissions targets.

    "You're kidding," Berman said after The Tyee informed her about Campbell's pro-oil sands lobbying in Scotland. "I find that really shocking."

    Even still, the Greenpeace International campaigner wouldn't recant her high-profile award to Campbell in Copenhagen. But she's now begun to question whether he deserved it. "He put forward a courageous and seminal policy on the climate," she said. "His emerging as tar sands apologist internationally does make one wonder who it was in his government that held water on the carbon tax."

    Several days after Berman spoke with The Tyee, two anti-oil sands activists crashed a meeting of Canadian and European energy leaders in London, groping, kissing and slathering each other with molasses on top of a boardroom table [http://vimeo.com/30373841]. Campbell, who was in attendance, watched with a wry smile, eight time zones removed from his home province and its landmark carbon tax.

    read the full article at:

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/10/18/Campbell-Slammed-By-Berman

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  2. A Peek into Secretive Order of BC Decisions

    By Bob Mackin, The Tyee November 4, 2011

    Whoever nominated Gordon Campbell for the Order of British Columbia was not content to let the 27-year politician's qualifications stand on their own. The nomination package for Campbell was 17 pages long, which was more than double the eight pages submitted in support of real estate tycoon Luigi Aquilini and seven each for Campbell's ex-sidekick Ken Dobell and former Liberal-cum-Conservative Member of Parliament David Emerson. The nomination documents were withheld in their entirety by the government, which claims that disclosure through the Freedom of Information process would be harmful to personal privacy. Campbell's award sparked a public outcry when it was announced in September. ...
    ...The government did release documents that cast some light on the process that led to the Campbell's controversial award. The Order of B.C. advisory council met April 26 at an undisclosed Vancouver location. The site of the meeting and the lunch were both redacted under a section of the Freedom of Information law titled "disclosure harmful to law enforcement."

    The meeting was chaired by B.C. Chief Justice Lance Finch and included Vancouver Island University president Dr. Ralph Nilson, Intergovernmental Relations Secretariat associate deputy minister Pierette Maranda, Speaker of the Legislature Bill Barisoff, Union of B.C. Municipalities president and Surrey Coun. Barbara Steele, VANOC chief executive John Furlong and Barbara Ward-Burkitt of the Prince George Native Friendship Centre. Furlong and Steele were 2010 recipients. ...
    ...
    How many nominees were considered was not disclosed. Nor was voting information disclosed, but it would be interesting to know if three of the most controversial nominees were given John Furlong's support. Dobell was an original VANOC director and chaired the finance committee. Even when Dobell, Campbell's former city manager and deputy minister, was caught flouting lobbyist registration laws, Furlong stood by his man. "It takes a classy individual to admit it when he makes a mistake, and he has," Furlong said on March 12, 2008. "He's a star member of our board, a great contributor and he's done extraordinary work for us and he will continue to do that."

    David Emerson was the federal Olympics minister at a key time for VANOC -- when the world's economy slid downhill. While publicly claiming that its operations budget did not rely on taxpayers, Furlong and VANOC was secretly lobbying the federal government in 2007 for $20 million to produce the opening ceremony. Lo and behold, Emerson showed up at a news conference in VANOC headquarters on Feb. 22, 2008 to stand beside Furlong and announce a $20 million contribution. Campbell and Furlong shared a mutual admiration. Furlong owed a debt of gratitude for allowing him to do the job that made him famous and opened up new opportunities, like directorships with Rocky Mountaineer and Whistler Blackcomb.

    If the premier didn't like the job Furlong was doing, changes would have been made long before 2010. The VANOC board included several directors who were on a first-name and speed-dial basis with Campbell who would have offered their master constant evaluation of Furlong's leadership. Campbell was responsible for appointing Dobell, Rusty Goepel and Richard Turner. Goepel and Turner are prominent Liberal bagmen. Stockbroker Peter Brown was a federal Conservative appointee but a close confidante of Campbell's. Founding chairman Jack Poole, who died in Oct. 2009, was a mentor figure to both Campbell and Furlong.

    read the full article at:

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/11/04/Order-of-BC-Decision

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  3. The following article is the perfect metaphor for how Gordon Campbell neglected the health and safety of B.C. citizens when he was premier. Poor people died on the street under his leadership. If he wasn't aware of the problem, he should have been since he was the 'premier' conractor.

    Ignorance is no excuse for negligence in this case.

    ***********************************************************
    Gordon Campbell's safety lapse cited in roofer death

    Worker fell to death through hole in roof during renovations on Campbell home

    The Canadian Press March 5, 2012

    A report by WorkSafeBC says former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell did not properly oversee safety measures at his summer home where a roofer fell to his death last year.

    Dave Lesko, 40, died July 4, 2011, after falling through a skylight opening at the home in Halfmoon Bay on the Sunshine Coast, west of Vancouver.

    WorkSafe says Campbell was considered the "Prime Contractor" on the job site, but didn't meet the responsibilities for co-ordinating health and safety activities, although it also says Campbell wasn't aware he was considered the prime contractor or the responsibilities that carried, said a report from CKAY radio on the Sunshine Coast.

    WorkSafe also says the roofing contractor — Weather Tight Supplies — failed to establish safe work procedures for roof openings, and did not provide adequate supervision and enforcement.

    So far, WorkSafe has not assessed any penalties in the case.

    Campbell, who's now Canada's High Commissioner to Great Britain, did not respond to a request for comment.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/03/05/bc-gordon-campbell-roofer-death.html

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  4. Guess what ordinary citizens are told when they break a law they were unaware of? Ignorance of the law is no defense.

    Here is one thing Campbell did to workers rights when he was premier:

    "The provincial Liberal government has introduced amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act that significantly reduce injured workers’ benefits and appeal rights and give employers savings of hundreds of millions of dollars. Two legislative bills were passed in 2002, and a third is anticipated in the legislature’s spring session in 2003."
    http://www.hsabc.org/viewReport.php?rid=14&page=4&id=99&sid=7

    **********************************************************
    Gordon Campbell doesn't agree with ruling on roofer's death, but won't appeal it

    By Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun March 6, 2012

    Gordon Campbell, Canada's High Commissioner to Britain, said Tuesday he doesn't agree with a WorkSafe BC ruling that he became the "prime contractor" on a renovation project at his vacation home where a roofer fell to his death.

    But Campbell said he won't appeal the ruling, and will review the report "and take what action is necessary."

    Campbell, the former B.C. premier, said he's more worried about the family of David Lesko, the roofer who died after he fell through an open skylight at Campbell's home on the Sunshine Coast.

    "Throughout this my concern has been for the worker's family, for his friends, colleagues and fellow workers on the site," he said in an email to The Vancouver Sun.

    On Monday WorkSafe made public an investigation into the accident that caused Lesko's death last July 4. It said Lesko, an experienced roofer with Weather Tight Supplies of Sechelt, was wearing a fall arrest harness but hadn't hooked it into an anchor line. He fell nearly 18 feet to his death.

    The investigation revealed that Campbell had not assigned the role of "prime contractor" to any of the companies working on the renovations, and as such was by default responsible for ensuring all the workers complied with health and safety regulations.

    WorkSafe said it is considering financially penalizing Weather Tight, and that Campbell would be issued an order but no penalty.

    Paul Devine, a Vancouver lawyer who specializes in health and safety law, said most people have no idea they need to assign prime contractor status to a company working on their property, or that they could be held financially liable for any injured workers who aren't registered with WorkSafe.

    Campbell, who lives in London, said understand the thrust of the determination in the report.

    "Although I do not agree with WorkSafe BC designation of me as the "prime contractor" for the renovation that was taking place at my property, for reasons of statutory interpretation, I do not intend to appeal the inspector's decision at this time. I will review the report and take what action is necessary." he wrote.

    " I was not aware of the term "prime contractor" as it is interpreted by WorkSafeBC prior to the accident. There are lessons for all concerned and I hope we will all learn and do what we can to keep the workplace safe for workers."

    http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Gordon+Campbell+doesn+agree+with+ruling+roofer+death+appeal/6258285/story.html

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  5. Christy Clark's Mysterious Phone Call with Gordon Campbell

    By Bob Mackin, 8 June 2012, TheTyee.ca

    On the morning of March 26 this year, B.C. Premier Christy Clark spent half an hour on the phone speaking to Gordon Campbell for reasons mysterious.

    While it might seem nothing out of the ordinary for a premier to touch base with her predecessor as Liberal Party leader and premier, this particular conversation invites deeper interest for a couple of reasons.

    For one thing, Clark had gone to great effort to publicly distance herself from the unpopular Campbell, now Canada's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.

    For another, March 26 was the day John van Dongen assailed the leadership of both Clark and Campbell in his startling speech in the Legislature declaring his resignation from the BC Liberals and his deep misgivings about the tax-payer funded $6 million dollars to cover legal expenses of David Basi and Robert Virk after they pled guilty to criminal charges related to the BC Rail scandal.

    Clark's agenda, acquired by The Tyee, shows this entry on March 26: "9:00 a.m.-9:30 a.m. Phone call with High Commissioner Gordon Campbell -- HE will call PVO [Premier's Vancouver Office]."

    What was the reason for the call? What was discussed? Who initiated the appointment?

    The terse, official answer emailed to The Tyee by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is that the topic of conversation was the upcoming Olympics in London. But Clark's own press handler refused to confirm that's what was discussed.

    March 26 was the last Monday of the most tumultuous month in Clark's short premiership.

    Four days earlier, she announced the by-elections for Port Moody and Chilliwack.

    Two days earlier, John Yap was sworn-in as Minister of State for Multiculturalism in a hastily arranged, $3,600 Saturday afternoon ceremony at the Chinese Cultural Centre that was closed to the media. Yap was filling the seat left vacant by Harry Bloy, Clark's only leadership supporter from caucus who quit cabinet on March 15 for breaching his oath of confidentiality by giving a reporter's email to a party supporter.

    Backbenchers Rob Howard and Moira Stilwell got Parliamentary Secretary posts on the same day as Yap.

    Then, just five hours after Campbell and Clark had their phone conversation, John van Dongen rose in the Legislature to announce his resignation from the Liberal caucus to sit as a Conservative independent. In doing so, he fired a verbal salvo at Clark.

    "I had hoped that there would have been renewal in my party and in government, but in the last 12 months I feel that has not happened," van Dongen said. "Indeed, every week constituents question government actions and issues that I am not able to defend. What I believe people expect from political leadership are core values that include integrity and a genuine commitment to public service."

    Clark was not at her seat and her whereabouts were unclear until the next day when she appeared at a news conference in Victoria to accuse van Dongen of hastening a split in the centre-right coalition that would lead to an NDP government.

    continued in next comment...

    ReplyDelete
  6. continued from previous comment:

    Clark now is mulling a name change for the BC Liberal party that has never recovered from then Premier Campbell's imposition of the Harmonized Sales Tax.

    Clark famously refused to pose for a photograph with Campbell while at a June 4, 2011 fundraising party at constituent Jacqui Cohen's Point Grey mansion.

    She phased out Campbell's "Best Place on Earth" slogan and replaced it with her Canada Starts Here.

    She even rebuffed Finance Minister Kevin Falcon's bid for a British Columbia promotional presence in London during this summer's Olympics, because she wanted further distance from Campbell.

    Campbell was a no-show to receive his Order of British Columbia last fall but returned for a Feb. 11 luncheon speech to the Vancouver Board of Trade. Clark and the inner-circle of her cabinet made other plans. They were in Olympia, Wash., for a joint cabinet meeting with Gov. Christie Gregoire.

    Yet records reveal that six weeks later, amidst a particularly busy and high-stakes period in her political life, Clark found a half hour to check in with Campbell via phone.

    A request for information or an interview to the High Commission's press officer, Christie Tucker, was forwarded to Foreign Affairs and International Trade spokesperson Ian Trites in Ottawa.

    "High Commissioner Campbell telephoned Premier Clark to discuss the upcoming London Olympic and Paralympic Games, as he has done with other premiers across the country," Trites said in an emailed statement.

    The same question was posed Sara MacIntyre, Clark's press secretary.

    "I can confirm the call, but not the substance of the discussion," MacIntyre wrote in an email.

    MacIntyre did not respond to a follow-up query seeking to know whether Clark is planning a trip to the Olympics and whether Clark sought advice on any current or past issue from Campbell.

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2012/06/08/Clark-Campbell-Phone-Call

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  7. Gordon Campbell enriched himself at taxpayer's expense, increasing his own salary and benefits while Premier, even as he cut funding and services to the poorest citizens. He was a criminal while in office, and then he was rewarded by Prime Minister Harper with more riches from the taxpayers. He lives in luxury with a free house, car and servants, and continues to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary and pensions, again all paid by the taxpayers. And now we see how he is a gilded glutton for high society's obscenely rich food and drink.

    Gordon Campbell's hospitality tab tops other diplomats

    Former B.C. premier now Canada's high commissioner in London

    By Kathleen Harris, Power & Politics, CBC News July 16, 2012

    Wining and dining at Canada’s embassies abroad escaped the axe as the federal government grappled with across-the-board cuts in this year’s budget.

    Former British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is racking up the biggest hospitality tab so far this year.

    In the first five months of 2012, the high commissioner to the United Kingdom has billed $67,026 on dinners, lunches, and cocktail receptions. He's also billed three tuxedo rentals at a cost of $600.

    Campbell's total tab is nearly three times more than any other ambassador in the same period, according to figures posted online by Foreign Affairs under proactive disclosure rules.

    But the department says the costs are in line with one of the largest Canadian missions abroad, reflecting the U.K.’s “importance to Canadian economic and security interests.”

    “As such, the High Commission’s hospitality expenses are in line with the pivotal role it plays in promoting Canada’s economic and foreign policy priorities abroad,” spokesman Ian Trites told CBC News.

    Canada’s ambassador in Tokyo, Jonathan Fried, has the second-highest tab, with expenses totalling $23,408.

    The top diplomat in Washington, Gary Doer, is among the more frugal ambassadors, spending just $2,682 on hospitality in the five-month period.

    Former Conservative cabinet minister Loyola Hearn, now the ambassador in Ireland, is also among the more modest spenders, filing expenses worth $5,723. About half of that total was for cases of wine and freight fees, purchased to advance "advocacy to Canada's public policy."

    Federal departments are grappling with cuts this year, but Foreign Affairs says the hospitality budget for cocktail receptions, dinners, breakfasts and other events hosted by ambassadors and other embassy officials will not be trimmed.

    "The hospitality budgets have been preserved at current levels,” Trites said. “Hospitality is a necessity of the business of diplomacy, but we do so with the taxpayer top of mind. We continually assess whether we can do hospitality differently and in a more cost-effective manner."

    Last fiscal year, spending on hospitality was $5,994,922, nearly on par with the previous year’s $6,115,460.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/07/16/pol-harris-ambassadors-hospitality.html

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  8. Clerical errors overstated Gordon Campbell expenses
    Revised reports cut top diplomat's claims in half


    By Kathleen Harris, CBC News July 18, 2012

    Foreign Affairs Canada has altered an online record of hospitality expense claims for the high commissioner to the United Kingdom, Gordon Campbell, citing “clerical errors.”

    The revised reports, posted on the department’s website under proactive disclosure rules, cut the top diplomat’s claims in half — from the original $67,296 posted to the current $33,975.

    At least six dinners and receptions were either eliminated or reduced after a report on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics detailed how Campbell’s claims were nearly three times more than those of any other Canadian ambassador posted abroad.

    Even with the revisions, the former premier of British Columbia’s hospitality claims still top diplomats from all other Canadian missions, including Washington, Beijing and Tokyo.

    Department spokesman Jean-Bruno Villeneuve said initial data postings were reported inaccurately on the government website, and that other departments or private-sector partners actually shared costs of some events.

    One major change was to a Jan. 24, 2012, reception, initially recorded at $33,436 but amended to $4,227 for the high commissioner’s share.

    Changes were made overnight Tuesday after the CBC report Monday outlined Campbell's hospitality expenses for the first five months of this year, including three tuxedo rentals for $600.

    Last fiscal year, Canada's expenditure for hospitality abroad was $5,994,922, nearly on par with the previous year’s $6,115,460.

    Despite cutbacks across federal government departments, foreign affairs spokesman Ian Trites said hospitality budgets have been preserved at current levels this year, noting that hospitality is “a necessity of the business of diplomacy” that is extended with the taxpayer “top of mind.”

    He also noted that the London mission is one of Canada's largest abroad, reflecting the U.K.’s “importance to Canadian economic and security interests.”

    “As such, the High Commission’s hospitality expenses are in line with the pivotal role it plays in promoting Canada’s economic and foreign policy priorities abroad,” he said.

    Another departmental official also noted Tuesday that London is hosting the Olympic Games and the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year.

    And Rick Roth, press secretary for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, issued an additional statement late Tuesday on behalf of the minister.

    “Our government respects taxpayers’ dollars and is intent on ensuring that Canadian diplomacy provides value for money,” the statement said. “That's why we have seen a decrease in hospitality spending this year compared to last and a significant decrease in spending compared to the previous government.”

    But Jordan Bateman, the B.C. director for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, questioned why Campbell’s claims were higher than other expensive cities that share close diplomatic ties with Canada — and why they were modified only after the media spotlight.

    He called it “troubling” that federal cutbacks are affecting core services such as the coast guard, yet hospitality spending for diplomats remains untouched.

    “Almost every other aspect of government has been asked to tighten their belts, yet this hospitality spending seems to fly under the radar,” Bateman told CBC News. “It’s not fair to the public service or to taxpayers.”

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/07/17/gordon-campbell-hospitality-expenses-uk.html

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  9. Taxpayer advocate rips B.C. MLA pensions

    CBC News August 29, 2012

    Kevin Falcon may be leaving provincial politics, but according to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, the just-retired B.C. Finance Minister will eventually be taking an unseemly amount of taxpayer money with him.

    “Kevin Falcon, after 12 years of service to British Columbians in the legislature, will begin retired life at age 65 with a pension of about $63,000 a year,” said the federation’s B.C. Director, Jordan Bateman.

    For Bateman, Falcon is just the tip of the financial iceberg.

    In 1996, the NDP provincial government implemented a pension plan where, for every $1 the MLA put in, taxpayers would put $1 in as well.

    But in 2007, the ruling B.C. Liberals brought in a pension plan where for every $1 an MLA contributes, taxpayers contribute $4.

    MLAs qualify for the pension after six years in office. The numbers the CTF quotes represent what former members would collect at 65. But they can start collecting at age 60 instead, for a reduced amount.

    Either way, many recently retiring Liberals can look forward to hefty payouts, Bateman said:

    Former premier Gordon Campbell will get a pension that starts at $98,000 a year.

    Retiring Speaker Bill Barisoff, of Penticton, will start at about $91,000 a year.

    Former cabinet minister Iain Black, who quit last year, had just six years service and will collect about $30,000 to start.

    NDP MLA Michael Sather, in office for eight years, would collect $28,500.

    "[It’s] sort a reverse-Robin Hood, where taxpayers strapped for cash, who are scrimping and saving for their own retirements, trying to claw some money together for when we retire, are busy sending boatloads of money towards public sector unions, politicians and senior executives," Bateman said.

    But Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, says the average public sector pension is $18,000 a year.

    Sinclair said the CTF’s fight to cut the average pension is like engaging in a race to the bottom.

    “Get rid of all pensions and work till we're 80 and everything will be fine,” said Sinclair, mocking what he sees as the CTF’s argument.

    Sinclair said the answer is for everyone to have a reasonable pension plan.

    In addition to the generous pension plan, which is indexed to inflation, B.C. MLAs also receive 15-months severance pay whether they quit or are defeated in an election.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2012/08/29/bc-falcon-mla-pensions.html

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  10. Baird stayed at official residences on London, NYC vacations

    Office confirms personal use of government accommodations with friends

    CBC News June 20, 2013

    Last Christmas, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and six of his friends vacationed in London, staying for free at High Commissioner Gordon Campbell's official residence.

    The year before, Baird spent New Year's in New York, staying in Canadian Consul General John Prato's residence.

    Baird's office said Thursday morning that both diplomats are friends with the minister.

    Campbell and Baird have been friends since before Baird's appointment as a cabinet minister in 2006. In Prato's case, the friendship was said to date back 20 years, to before his days in federal politics.

    Both diplomats currently report to Baird as minister and live in government residences as part of their official roles.

    The minister's office, however, said that both Campbell and Prato do pay some rent for their personal living quarters as part of their arrangements as Canada's representatives abroad.

    Baird stayed in Campbell's residence from Dec. 26 to Jan. 2, 2013, after Campbell invited him as "a personal friend to his apartment" while the high commissioner was out of town.

    "No staff were present as it was the holidays," wrote ministerial spokesman Joseph Lavoie in a message to CBC News. "There was no one working there, so no expenses incurred."

    "The minister personally paid for the trip himself, including [the] flight, and personally paid for transportation to and from airport by cab, as well as around London."

    The New York stay ran from Dec. 28, 2011, to Jan. 2, 2012, when the consul general was also not using his government accommodations.

    "The minister has two friends who happen to be heads of missions. He has taken them both up on their offer to stay as a personal guest of theirs," Lavoie wrote. "On both occasions, no expenses were incurred and no taxpayer monies were used."

    In February, the Harper government announced that Campbell's residence in London, the John A. Macdonald building in Grosvenor Square, will be put on the market as part of a consolidation of the Canadian government's real estate in London. Macdonald House, which includes both office and residential space, was last valued at $800 million.

    Senate Government Leader Marjory LeBreton pointed to the pending sale as a way to save money, and defended Baird's visit.

    "This trip did not cost taxpayers a single dime. Minister Baird has saved taxpayer dollars in recent years by staying at official residences rather than in expensive hotels when travelling on official business," she said during the Senate's question period.

    Liberal Senator Jane Cordy responded that Baird's trip had nothing to do with official business. Cordy said one of the friends who stayed with Baird at the residence was David Forestell, the chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.

    "Those are pretty good accommodations for an eight-day stay in London. Eight days of accommodations, free of charge, in a mansion that is owned by the taxpayers of Canada and that is valued at more than $500 million. Who can sign up to stay there?" Cordy said.

    Baird is currently travelling on government business in the Middle East. He has no vacations planned at this time, according to his office.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/story/2013/06/20/pol-baird-london-vacation.html

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