Editorial — Crossing the partisan line

Report by John Dyble shows people on government payroll were doing Liberal Party work.

The report by deputy minister John Dyble into the conduct of government staffers confirms the worst — a number of people on the public payroll were busy doing Liberal Party business, and ignoring clear government directives not to do so.

Whether this was to do with ethnic outreach or swing voters is irrelevant. What is relevant is that there was no clear demarcation between partisan and government work, and people at a high level in the premier’s office knew and approved of this.

If people want to engage in partisan work and are on the government payroll, they have a right to so — on their time off. While they are working for the government on projects like ethnic outreach, those projects need to be for government purposes. The provincial government and the BC Liberal Party are not one and the same.

While the NDP initially raised this serious case of the blurring of partisan and government roles, the party does not have completely clean hands. It has since come out that four-time NDP candidate Gabriel Yiu has been on the payroll of the NDP caucus — which gets its funds from taxpayers.

This issue was raised by auditor-general John Doyle while he was looking into the lack of accounting and transparency of the legislature itself.

While Yiu did not mix government and party work (his party is in opposition), and the former legislative comptroller signed off on NDP caucus members using part of their constituency funds to pay Yiu, this looks more like a situation where the party made a job for him, at taxpayers’ expense, while waiting for the next election.

Every B.C. political party that has formed government has, at times, blurred the line between party and government business. The lack of transparency and accountability in legislature accounts has made this quite easy to do and, despite Doyle’s report into this mismanagement of tax dollars, neither party has completely committed to fixing this mess.

The report from Dyble will do little to restore public confidence in the Christy Clark government, particularly as these actions were taking place within her office, and in the run-up to the election.

However, the fact that the NDP has paid former candidates to do political work with tax dollars is also troubling. It all makes it that much harder for voters to decide which candidate and party to choose when they cast their ballots. At the moment, “none of the above” is not on the ballot.