Les Leyne: Outreach effort run by stumblebums

It’s hard to take the B.C. Liberals’ ethnic-outreach scandal seriously, now that the rampant ineptitude has been exposed.

Deputy Minister to the Premier John Dyble’s report is the story of a clumsy bunch of stumblebums who would have trouble reaching out to their own mothers, let alone to ethnic communities.

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One hapless executive assistant, briefing then-cabinet minister John Yap on how they were trying to fix a hiring process, wrote: “It is absolutely critical that we do not leave any evidence [of] us helping them through this application.”

It was cute to see that little tip included in the report as ... um, evidence. The surreptitious, clandestine nature of the enterprise is stressed multiple times in the evidence Dyble and his deputies located.

Despite the zeal the outreach team showed for secrecy, they managed to bumble that completely, along with everything else they attempted. If these clowns were on Seal Team Six, Osama bin Laden would be alive.

Then-cabinet minister John Yap’s reply to the genius advice was: “Great job. Let’s now hope for the best.”

The chance of him returning to cabinet exonerated — as Premier Christy Clark hoped — disappeared in a puff of smoke when they handed out that page. He’d already torched himself by admitting to Dyble that the reason his former staff were using personal email for correspondence on the issue was to avoid freedom-of-information laws.

Only they couldn’t even get that right. Government IT people recovered about 10,000 documents, and it’s a safe bet that some emails from personal accounts were in that trove.

It was former communications director Brian Bonney who set the performance standard that the outreach posse followed. As a party activist, he parachuted into a senior government communications job in the fall of 2011.

After a detailed accounting of his government career, Dyble concluded that Bonney “may have spent up to half of his time on partisan activities.”

In other words, a party hack pulled down $124,000 in taxpayer-funded salary as a member of the public service and may have spent half his time on partisan political activities.

Dyble called it a serious breach of the standards of conduct.

Among Bonney’s adventures:• He helped three of the four outreach workers complete their paperwork. That counts as bestowing an inappropriate favour and helping candidates at the expense of others. It’s also an apparent conflict of interest, because two of them knew Yap. Wrong.

• He and others engaged the outreach team and put them to work before the procurement process was concluded and contracts were in place. Wrong.

• He was at a meeting of the whole gang where confidential government information on the minister’s priorities was shared with people not qualified to receive it. Wrong.

Other parts of the report give a flavour for how he conducted himself on this mission. The thrust of the findings is that government staff, caucus staff and party people were all mushed together in an outreach program to boost Liberal fortunes.

In one of his personal emails, he instructed the team not to tell the (leery) ministry program director that they knew him. In another, he circulated a form for the outreachers to use, then urged them not to use the same form when submitting stuff to the ministry director.

It’s worth quoting from again: “Please do not send ... using the form we sent you!!!” “Use any format you like, but not the form we asked you to use.”

The whole disjointed, cynical, unethical, conflicted mess eventually collapsed late last year, before it had even gotten started. Multicultural ministry staff — who try to reach ethnic groups for their own sake, not the B.C. Liberal party’s — raised enough objections that it was abandoned. Only $6,800 was paid to one contractor.

Bonney quit government last month, with the memory of being awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal by another ex-multicultural minister, Harry Bloy.

It was just an unpleasant memory until someone with access to the emails leaked a batch to the Opposition. That raised the furor that led to abject apologies from Clark and her orders to Dyble to investigate.

His report was released on the last day of an aimless session that ends one of the strangest parliaments in B.C. history. You couldn’t think of a better conclusion.

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