There's a reason Christy Clark governs from the cloak room. The less British Columbians can see her, close up, the better off she is. With the scantest of "drive by" legislative sessions, Clark and her cronies don't govern B.C., they rule it like some private fiefdom.
The New York Times has called Clark's Liberals "the Wild West of Canadian Political Cash." Today the NYT followed that up with an account of a bizarre welfare scheme for out of province corporations, 140-million dollars worth of provincial handouts that were supposed to create 13,000 jobs but in fact realized, by the ministry's own figures, somewhere between 300 and possibly as few as 122. Among Christy's corporate beneficiaries were three affiliated companies tagged by American authorities for money laundering. In keeping with their obsession about iron-fist secrecy we may never know what outfits got how much in handouts, at least not until this corrupt government is sent packing.
Of course money flows many ways, especially Alberta bitumen bucks that have a habit of finding their way into Christy Clark's campaign purse. And Christy knows the importance of rewarding her friends.
British Columbia has some big, big Crown Corporations like B.C. Hydro; the provincial motor vehicle insurer, I.C.B.C.; and B.C. Ferries. But if you're looking to become CEO of one of those companies, you better be pals with the Liberal Mullahs.
Brad Bennett ..the chair of BC Hydro — $30 billion in assets, $5.7 billion in revenues — is travelling with Clark on the campaign trail as a key advisor.
Crown corporations are supposed to operate at arm’s length from government, with independent boards of directors who hire experienced managers. They exist partly to reduce political interference in the provision of basic services. Directors are to be appointed on the “basis of merit,” according to government policy.
It’s not surprising governments want to interfere. Four Crown corporations — BC Hydro, the Liquor Distribution Branch, BC Lotteries, and ICBC — are slated to generate $2.9 billion in government revenue this year. Without the $698 million “dividend” taken from BC Hydro, the Liberals’ 2017 budget wouldn’t have been balanced, a disaster for their campaign chances.
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So it was helpful to have a BC Hydro board that wouldn’t kick up a fuss when the government ordered the corporation to use questionable accounting practices to inflate revenue, producing income — on paper — to allow the corporation to send money to the government.
And a board that insisted on ICBC or BC Hydro rate increases that reflected long-term business realities — not election promises — could be awkward.
Even the less prominent Crowns can be politically sensitive. The Transportation Investment Corporation was created to operate the Port Mann toll bridge after private investors decided the project was too risky. The government says the corporation’s profits will pay for the bridge by 2050.
On and on and on. The Tyee has a list of 36 B.C. Crown Corporations, all of them managed by individuals with close, very close Liberal ties.
The British Columbia Liberals - more than a political party, more than a government, more of a very low-key family business.