UPDATE: Apologies tendered to Wilson (read here)
Former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson has been fired as liquefied natural gas advocate and says he hopes it doesn’t spell the end of the provincial program.
The New Democrats ended Wilson’s contract after finding he wrote no reports on what he did, said Bruce Ralston, jobs, trade and technology minister and former LNG critic.
Wilson receives no severance, which is in line with the terms of his appointment.
Since he was hired in October 2013, Wilson has been paid more than $550,000, Ralston said Tuesday.
“His contract has been reviewed. We were unable to locate any reports written by him setting out what he had done to earn that money, so the decision has been to end the contract,” Ralston said.
“Apparently, he reported orally. But there’s not even notes on that.”
Ralston characterized Wilson’s appointment as a favour to a friend. Former premier Christy Clark’s relationship with Wilson dates back to his 1991 election campaign, which Clark worked on.
“I think the previous premier took care of her friends and he was a friend of hers,” he said.
Wilson said that the NDP has not asked him directly what he did and that, as an advocate, his job wasn’t to write reports.
“That’s like firing a plumber because he didn’t install enough light fixtures,” Wilson said.
He said his role was to help ensure B.C. companies and First Nations were in a position to work with the LNG industry. He also made recommendations to the minister of natural gas development to remove barriers to the industry’s development, including reducing taxes on companies — which was never fully adopted.
Wilson said he believed Petronas’s decision to pull the plug on the $11.4-billion Pacific Northwest LNG project last week came because B.C. is not tax competitive with other jurisdictions, which wouldn’t likely change with the new government.
“I don’t think [Petronas’s decision] had anything to do with the personalities or political stripes of government,” he said. “The bottom line … is what is their position in respect to the tax demand on these companies? And in Canada, we have to take a lesson from the farmer: You have to let the calf become a cow before you milk it.”
While one window has closed on B.C.’s LNG development, he said he hopes the Buy B.C. LNG program continues, so the province can take advantage of future opportunities. The program connects LNG proponents with B.C. companies that are interested in doing contract work for them.
Wilson was hired in October 2013 to promote the liquefied natural gas industry in B.C., after endorsing Clark in the election that year.
He has served both the provincial NDP and Liberals — losing the Liberal leadership race against Gordon Campbell in 1993, then taking a cabinet position with the New Democrats in the late 1990s, before endorsing Clark in the 2013 election.
He is married to former Liberal MLA Judi Tyabji, who recently wrote Behind the Smile, a biography of Christy Clark. His son, Matthew, was a Liberal candidate in the 2017 provincial election, losing to the NDP’s Nicholas Simons in Powell River-Sunshine Coast.