Saturday, April 18, 2009


About that Public Affairs Bureau ... this premier has the largest political communications staff in B.C. history

It's important in B.C. to recognize the significance of the semi-secret Public Affairs Bureau during the BC Rail Case because, in my view, it has an effect upon what's published and what is not published, what's done and not done. The effect is ongoing, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, at taxpayers' expense. Here's one example. - BC Mary.

Click HERE to see the Hansard record for October 6, 2003 P.M.

J. Kwan: The Premier knows well the good people at National Public Relations. Perhaps he even recalls Randy Wood's kind words in his defence last January — speaking as a crisis management expert, of course.

The Premier's office paid National Public Relations a total of $37,000 in taxpayers' money last year alone. Given that this Premier has the largest political communications staff in B.C. history working for him already, what possible extra value could National Public Relations provide that was worth $37,000?

Hon. G. Campbell: I'd have to get the information on the specific contractual arrangements for the member, but let me just remind the member that, in fact, this government is spending substantially less than the government that she was part of spent on communications. It is important, unquestionably, that we do communicate with the people of British Columbia, and we are doing that. But today, Mr. Speaker, as you will know from the budget documents — and the member opposite should as well — we're effectively paying $6 million less than the previous government was in 1992.

Mr. Speaker: The member for Vancouver–Mount Pleasant has a supplementary question.


J. Kwan: The boss at National Public Relations, B.C. office, is Marcia Smith. On September 4, 2002, Marcia Smith registered as a lobbyist for an oil and mining industry association, the Canadian Coalition for Responsible Environmental Solutions. These guys don't like Kyoto, but they sure like oil and coal. It was Marcia Smith's job to lobby government on their behalf as the government was putting its energy plan together. She really must be convincing — good enough that only five days later, the Minister of Energy and Mines hired her to work on this government's energy plan.

Can the Minister of Energy tell us why he was paying Marcia Smith to help develop his energy plan when she was also being paid by big oil to lobby on the very same energy plan?

Hon. J. Neufelt: The member over there is picking at straws, trying to find anything wrong that she can. Unfortunately, they have not been able to, other than trying to mislead people in some instances. We have a very good energy plan in the province, one that's designed to take British Columbia well into the future, and we are looking forward to actually going along with that energy plan well into the future.

J. MacPhail: Well, the minister is playing dumb. That's what my notes here say, but I actually don't think he's playing. I actually think he may be dumb on this one. It's an outright conflict — it's an outright conflict — for the minister to pay Marcia Smith to help him with his energy plan when she's already on the payroll of big oil and mining companies to lobby him on the same plan. But there's more, Mr. Speaker — new information. Two of National Public Relations top lobbyists, Michael Goehring and Randy Wood, are also registered lobbyist[s] for Accenture — National Public Relations employees lobbying for Accenture, the same folks who benefited from this government's privatization of B.C. Hydro. These two gentlemen report to Marcia Smith. So while the government is busy negotiating a deal with Accenture and drafting the final energy policy, which included the Accenture deal, Marcia Smith is also lobbying for Accenture. She's also lobbying for big oil, and at the same time she's being paid by this minister to advise him about the Liberal energy plan. Can the minister stand up now and tell us how this is not a conflict?

Hon. R. Neufeld: Well, as normal, the opposition is trying to dig under every straw and everything to see what they can find that is wrong. Now they talk about Accenture. Isn't it interesting? The deal B.C. Hydro has with Accenture will save ratepayers $250 million over ten years. Is that a bad deal? I think that's a good deal for British Columbia. It's also a business that's centred in Vancouver, that pays taxes in the province of British Columbia, hires…. Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Order, please. The minister has the floor.


Hon. R. Neufeld: It's my turn. I listened to you. Accenture will set up a business in the province of British Columbia. It will employ British Columbians. It will pay taxes in British Columbia. It will help keep the rates low for ratepayers of B.C. Hydro in the province. I can't imagine anything that's better for British Columbians than that, and that's a key part of our energy plan. Thank you.

Mr. Speaker: Leader of the Opposition has a supplementary question.

J. MacPhail: Well, I hope all those public affairs bureau employees are scurrying around right now to help the minister out of this little trap. If the minister….


Mr. Speaker: Order, please.

J. MacPhail: Although, actually, the minister isn't confident that no conflict occurred, because he didn't answer the question. Let me ask the minister this: will he agree today to release to the public all of the documents that Ms. Marcia Smith was involved with under this contract, and will he ask the Attorney General to do a full investigation into how and why the government is paying oil and mining lobbyists, industry lobbyists, to help develop his energy plan? And if he won't, what's he got to hide?

Public Affairs Bureau with 223 fulltime government employees, a budget of $28 million a year (some say $31 million a year), and is bigger than any newsroom in Canada.

No newsroom anywhere covers a legislature with the same intensity as B.C.'s Public Affairs Bureau. We should ask a few questions.

Is it legal to use taxpayers' money for propaganda purposes? Is it legal for paid government employees to work in an election campaign? Is it legal and ethical to knowingly participate in the electoral process on behalf of government, but not the Opposition? Who decides on the policies which Public Affairs Bureau advocates? Who trains the new PAB "Officers" in their duties and how long does that take?

Perhaps values are reflected in paycheques. shown here, courtesy of Sean Holman at Public Eye Online:

Salary ranges for major unionized print media reporters:

The Canadian Press ($44,752.24 - $72,127.12)
The Times Colonist ($51,653.68 - $77,936.04)
The Globe and Mail ($47.110.96 - $84,199.44)
The Province, The Vancouver Sun ($53,998.36 - $86,140.08)

Salary ranges for public affairs bureau staff:

Public Affairs Officer ($47,278.25 - $79,847.87)
Communications Manager ($68,290.83 - $93,505.88)
Communications Director ($78,797.25 - $110,315.74)


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