Death and taxes may be life’s only certainties, but I’d add a couple more in this province:
The political party that wins the election will hire friends and insiders for cushy jobs. And the party that loses the election will complain bitterly about it — until they get a chance to do the same thing themselves.
In the case of Christy Clark’s Liberal government, the pattern is being repeated faithfully once again.
Five months after winning the May election in a startling upset, the Liberals have put a long list of party insiders on the public payroll.
Ben Stewart, the former Liberal MLA who stepped aside for Clark in Kelowna after she lost her own Vancouver seat on election night, was appointed on Monday as B.C.’s new $150,000-a-year trade commissioner to Asia.
Gordon Wilson, the former Liberal leader who endorsed Clark during the election when she desperately needed a boost, has been hired as the government’s “Buy B.C. Advocate” for liquefied natural gas. Wilson will be paid $50,000 for four months’ work.
The New Democrats, of course, are aghast.
“The taxpayer-funded gift to her pal Gordon Wilson really takes the cake,” said NDP MLA Mike Farnworth.
“Mr. Wilson has decided to accept a costly patronage appointment funded by scarce tax dollars.”
At least 15 other former Liberal MLAs, candidates and insiders have landed plum public positions, including ex-cabinet ministers John Les and Ida Chong.
Premier Clark insists these new hires have nothing to do with their Liberal connections, producing scoffs from the NDP.
But, of course, the NDP said the same thing when they hired their own friends and insiders back in the 1990s.
And who was the Opposition MLA who went ballistic back then? I’ll give you three guesses, but you’ll only need one.
“The ranks of the civil service have been infected by partisans — by people who have been hired solely because they’re members of the governing party,” Christy Clark railed in 1999.
“This isn’t Soviet Russia! This isn’t a one-party state!’’
Clark was particularly angry when the NDP government of the day hired a former NDP candidate — future party leader Carole James — to a job in the ministry of children and families.
“People will sit there at their desks and wonder if the person next door to them deserves to have that job or if the person that is promoted ahead of them deserves that promotion,” Clark said. “Who would like to work in that environment?’’
With so many Liberal insiders getting government jobs now, I wonder how many civil servants are having those exact same thoughts today?
Count on more Liberal patronage appointments and more NDP complaining about it in the days ahead. But just remember the New Democrats would be hiring their own friends if they had won the election, and Christy Clark would be slamming them for doing it.
It was ever thus in B.C.
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