Clearing out the cellar

By Dermod Travis

As the new B.C. government settles in and email accounts are transferred over, it'll soon be time for them to pluck up the courage to check the cellar.

The nooks and crannies of government operations, if you will. Some of what they'll find may come as a shock.

Think of it as the former government outsourcing operations, getting them off the books so to speak and as far away as possible from pesky things such as legislative oversight or B.C.'s access to information legislation.

There's AdvantageBC – an independent non-profit society – whose members enjoy an annual provincial tax rebate in the neighbourhood of $25 million. 

Then there's HQ Vancouver, set up to attract head offices to Vancouver. It received $3.3 million from B.C.’s Ministry of International Trade. 

Both the B.C. government and HQ Vancouver made a big deal out of the decision two years ago of China-based F-Pacific Optical Communications – a manufacturer of fibre optic components – to open its North American headquarters in Surrey.

Former premier Christy Clark called it the “start of great things” for both F-Pacific and HQ Vancouver. Turns out when the Financial Post showed up at the Surrey site they found the plant vacant and a For Lease sign up.

In May, Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin reported on the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., another independent, non-profit society arranged by government that can also thumb its nose at the province's access to information laws.

The society is charged with overseeing tree-planting in the province.

In 2016, then-Minister of Forests, Land and Natural Resource Operations, Steve Thomson, gave the brand-spanking-new group $85 million in public funding. Clark topped that up by another $150 million earlier this year. 

In March, former MLA Bill Bennett announced that the government would outsource wildlife management to a new outside, independent group.

Local hunting, conservation, and wildlife groups were to be tasked with establishing the group's “framework.”

Fearless Bill felt "government is afraid to manage wolves, for example, or afraid to manage grizzly bears in some cases because of the politics of that.”

At the announcement, Bennett said the group would be funded “with an initial $5 million from the government,” with annual hunting license renewals as the sustaining funding.

The group's current status is unknown.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.


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