They just don’t get it. In March, multiculturalism minister Harry Bloy — the Liberals’ answer to Homer Simpson — was fired from Premier Christy Clark’s inner circle because he was one brick shy of an ethical load.
Bloy had come into possession of an email a reporter sent to the Ministry of Advanced Education. The email was seeking comment on one of the Liberals’ corporate donor buddies whose company was under investigation. When the reporter went to the company for an interview, his email was waved in his face. Bloy had alerted his pals.
At the time, Premier Clark’s reluctant leadership barely qualified as tough love: “I want to put this in context . . . because what he did was not illegal, although it was wrong.”
We jump ahead to November and we find Jobs Minister Pat Bell doing a credible recreation of Harry’s Homer role. In this case, Bell supplied a lobbyist with inside information related to one of his clients. This is not just any old run of the mill lobbyist, this is former Liberal MLA Bill Belsey who is the vice-president of the BC Liberals and who shills for Sun Wave Forest Products and other ventures owned by Chinese businessman Ni Ritao.
Bell tipped Belsey that government officials were structuring a settlement of a dispute with Ni Ritao. Bell’s dismissive reaction to being caught was: “There was nothing in there that would give me any cause for concern.”
A ministry statement defended Bell’s email to Belsey. “In sending the email to Mr. Belsey, Minister Bell was seeking additional perspective on the foreign language media reports,” it stated. “Minister Bell’s job is to know as much as possible about international investment and investors based on information he receives from ministry staff and additional perspective from outside sources.”
NDP finance critic Bruce Ralston said: “The optics of it certainly suggest Belsey was getting preferential treatment and I think that stinks.”
Of course it stinks. It stinks just as bad as the breach that got Bloy fired. So, you may ask, where is the premier in all this? The answer is nowhere. If the premier was going to appear remotely consistent, she would have fired Bell last week. Instead, she has been hiding in the tall grass.
The reason is simple; Bell is synonymous with the BC Jobs Plan, Clark’s paper-thin blueprint for economic prosperity. In the face of declining job numbers, the only thing that keeps the Jobs Plan remotely credible is the unflagging enthusiasm with which Bell continues to flog it.
Unlike the nincompoop Bloy, Bell has been a rock solid journeyman in cabinet. If the premier did not have him out there trying to convince British Columbians that there is substance behind the Jobs Plan promises, she’d be in even deeper trouble than she is already.
There is one other element of this intrigue that is sticking to the Liberals like a bad barn yard smell and that is the lobbying status of Belsey. This Liberal insider knows he is required by law to register with the government; however, the list of all 393 registrations with the Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists does not include the names Belsey or Sun Wave. Further, a search back two years of expired lobby registrants also comes up empty.
These guys just keep making a compelling argument for political renewal, don’t they? M