Clark faces MLAs in ethnic vote flap
VICTORIA – B.C. Liberal MLAs planned an extended caucus meeting Monday afternoon to deal with the fallout from a leaked plan to use government resources to boost the party's popularity with ethnic communities.
Cabinet ministers held a hastily arranged meeting in Vancouver Sunday, and emerged united in support of Clark, who offered a personal apology before a crowd of reporters Sunday evening.
Going into the legislature Monday, Chilliwack MLA John Les said he continues to support Clark's leadership, but he expected a frank discussion behind closed doors on how the government should handle the controversy.
"You're not going to move forward as a party if you can't be honest with each other," Les said.
One disputed point is a plan to make an apology in the legislature for the "head tax" on Chinese immigrants, imposed by Ottawa from 1885 to 1935. Such apologies are proposed in the strategy document as "quick wins" before the May 14 provincial election.
Vancouver-Fraserview MLA Kash Heed objected to the move on the weekend, telling CKNW radio that such an apology would be "hollow."
In a terse statement issued Friday afternoon, Clark announced that she has accepted the resignation of her long-time assistant, Kim Haakstad, who distributed the ethnic voter plan to party and government staff via their personal e-mail addresses.
Haakstad, Clark's deputy chief of staff, and "outreach" staff from the premier's office are subject to an internal investigation ordered by Clark Thursday. John Dyble, head of the public service, is to examine whether government resources were redirected to help deliver ethnic votes to the B.C. Liberal Party.
A 2012 draft strategy memo leaked to the NDP opposition discusses ways to improve the governing party's popularity with immigrant communities, including recruiting new members and spokespeople to call and write to ethnic media outlets. Clark issued an apology for the document, read in the legislature Thursday by Deputy Premier Rich Coleman.
"The document did not recognize there are lines that cannot be crossed in conducting this outreach [to ethnic communities] and it is unacceptable," the statement says. "The language in this draft document and some of the recommendations are absolutely inappropriate."