Oct 27, 2010

Premier picks “can do” guy to sell HST in Cabinet shuffle


MLA John Les returned from the political wilderness Monday when the Premier appointed him Parliamentary Secretary for HST Information in his Cabinet shuffle.  In my mind it was one the most dubious choices in what was a controversial remixing at the top.

Earlier, Les had served as Solicitor General until losing his post during an RCMP investigation of land deals in Chilliwack.  The Special Prosecutor in the Les investigation found the former Minister not criminally responsible and recommended charges instead against an official who reported to Les as Mayor.  Here is what the Special Prosecutor had to say about the attitude to following the law in Chilliwack:

11.       The evidence presented by the investigators disclosed that during Mr. Les’ tenure as Mayor, a “pro-development/can do” culture was fostered within the City of Chilliwack’s Development and Planning Department. The evidence indicates that Mayor Les and most members of Council embraced this pro-development philosophy such that staff were encouraged, both directly and subtly, to adhere to what was described as an attitude of innovation and creativity within the City of Chilliwack’s Development and Planning Department, particularly with respect to the processing of applications for development.

 12.       This pro-development philosophy of Mayor Les, Chilliwack’s Council and Chilliwack’s Senior Administrators in the material timeframe, as manifested by the encouragement to staff to find creative solutions to facilitate development, resulted in a number of recommendations and approvals made by Chilliwack officials that did not adhere to Chilliwack’s own planning and growth objectives as set out in Chilliwack’s Official Community Plan, did not comply with Chilliwack’s municipal bylaws and/or did not comply with provincial statutes or regulations, including the ALCA.

 13.       The members of Chilliwack’s Planning and Development Department were encouraged to consider government regulations and municipal bylaws as guidelines only, with the goal of finding creative ways to “make development opportunities happen”.

 It appears that the attitude that laws and regulations were only guidelines was good enough for Chilliwack under Mayor John Les.  Is this a good enough ethical standard for Cabinet Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries?  Or has the Premier decided he wants a “can do” kind of guy to sell the HST regardless of what rules get bent?

This was not the only issue in the shuffle.  Already, one newly transferred Minister is being accused of conflict of interest.  West Coast Environmental Law has obtained a memo showing how the new Ministry of Natural Resource Operations is — in the words of WCEL — “more about facilitating access to natural resources (even the bizarre CEO title has the ring of getting business done, private-sector style) than about ensuring appropriate protection of the environment.”  And finally there is the switch in the bureaucracy which sees the Premier’s political chief of staff becoming a deputy minister while a former deputy minister and ICBC boss becomes his new political chief of staff.  Remember when the Premier complained in opposition about the politicization of the public service?