Tuesday, May 23, 2017

BC Liberal Politics: It's not about campaign fund raising or conflict of Interest. It's really about Patronage and Pornography

BC Hydro's Jack Weisgerber

Media (Journalist) Kim Emerson

BC  Legislative Library:

Opinion of the Commissioner of Conflict of Interest.

E.N. (Ted) Hughes, Q.C.
In the Matter of Applications by Jack Weisgerber, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Peace River South, and Kim Emerson with respect to alleged contravention of provisions of the Members' Conflict of Interest Act By the Honourable Harcourt, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Vancouver-Mount Pleasant.

City of Victoria, Province of British Columbia, April 17, 1995
Page 4 of 43
Members' Conflict of Interest Act   Section 15(1) and (1.1)

Sections 2(1) & 2.1 read:

For the purpose of the Act, a member has a conflict of interest when the member exercises an official power or performs an official duty or function in the execution of his or her office and at the same time knows that in the performance of the duty or function or in the exercise of the power there is the opportunity to further his or her private interest.

For the purpose of this Act, a member has an apparent conflict of interest where there is a reasonable perception, which a reasonably well informed person could properly have, that the member's ability to exercise an official power or perform an official function must have been affected by his or her private interest.

A member shall not exercise an official power or perform an official duty or function if the member has a conflict of interest or an apparent conflict of interest.

It is worth noting that the only place that the Legislature has expressly proscribed the awarding or approving of contracts is in section 7 of the Act which pertains to contracts with former members of the Executive Council and former parliamentary secretaries.  This may in fact be a provision that is more concerned with "patronage" than with conflict of interest.  This raises the question of what, if any, relationship there is between patronage and conflict of interest.  Given the many comments that have been made, in the media and in the House about the issue of patronage, I believe it is appropriate that I expound briefly on it.

I do so in the knowledge, as do Professors Langford and Tupper in their recent text Corruption, Character and Conduct at p. 1, that "Government ethics is an area where difficult questions come easier than convincing answers."  This is particularly the case when it comes to attempting to understand the role of patronage in a political system which proscribes apparent conflicts of interest.

Patronage has been described in many different ways but one common way offered by Professor Ian Stewart in Despoiling the Public Sector (chapter 5 in Langford and Tupper at p. 92) is "the giving of employment, grants, contracts and other government perquisites on the basis of party affiliation."  There may be other definitions that carry with them more negative connotations.  Professor Norman Ward in a paper entitled Patronage: Gentle Reflections (1987) 22 J. of Canadian Studies  177 said that it is "hard to consider 'patronage and corruption' as synonymous.  They can be: but as parts of working government they need not be and frequently are not."

Jeffrey Simpson in his books Spoils of Power (1988 at p. 6) likewise reveals the many sides of patronage.  He likens it to the "... pornography of politics, enticing to some, repulsive to others...".  He says that '... patronage is endemic to organized human society because everyone naturally prefers and trust the company of friends to that of adversaries.  The problem for political practitioners and observers has always been finding the point at which preference injures the public interest, a shifting uncertain notion.'

Nevertheless, patronage has been in fact of political life in Canada since Confederation; and there are many well respected academics who would defend many forms of patronage as a legitimate force in that political life.

As Professor Ward notes in the same paper:
In the Confederation period and the following decades patronage was considered the only possible tool through which responsible government could be carried on: if minister could not have the final word in appointments and contracts, how could they reasonably be held responsible for anything?  The Bad Things then were not patronage as such, but ELECTORAL CORRUPTION  and, however contracts were let, the providing of shoddy goods and service to the government.  (emphasis added)

Jeffrey Simpson who says in his book that he does not find patronage "terribly tasteful" nevertheless has described it as "ubiquitous" and admits to being "... more sanguine about its more benign forms such as those involving appointments".  He concludes at p.4

Patronage remains with us and always will as long as governing means making choices and exercising discretion.  An alert, well informed public is the best check I can think of against the abuses of patronage.

Further reading:

The Star   2014

Limits To The Politics Of Patronage

Further further reading:  Members' Conflict of Interest

Insider information

3.  A member shall not use information that is gained in the execution of his or her office and is not available to the general public to further or seek to further the member's private interest.
Historical Note(s): 1990-54-3.


4.  A member shall not use his or her office to seek to influence a decision, to be made by another person, to further the member's private interest.
Historical Note(s): 1990-54-4.

That last item???  is that ... 'another person' ... be Andrew Weaver


motorcycleguy said...

Well, there certainly is decision influencing going on that wouldn't be going on if said person did not hold office...and, with some evidence that it is not a majority of party membership that necessarily agrees with direction of said influencing....one could argue the point said influencing was for personal gain.

Anonymous said...


Page 7 of 30


Political Expenditure vs Government Expenditures

There is sometimes public debate about whether certain communications expenditures of government are for the POLITICAL benefit of either the government of the day or of particular members of the government. In British Columbia there is NO policy guidance on how to determine whether an expenditure is political. In conducting our review, we obtained information on the rules of government advertising in all provinces. We were unable to determine any precise rules for defining a judgement, we did not attempt to determine whether any of the communications expenditures examined in this report could be considered political in nature.

BC Auditor General

North Van's Grumps said...


10. Taxpayer funded partisan ads: Recently a video surfaced of Clark circa 1999 in Question Period at the Legislature going on a passionate rant about the government at that time spending $700,000 on ads promoting access to services, in essence saying it was a misuse of tax payer money.

Flash forward to this election season and a lawsuit filed against the B.C. government just this week that alleges Clark is spending $16 million tax payer money on ads to promote herself and the party.