NDP’s survival is on the line

The looting of the Portland Hotel Society makes the Nanaimo bingo charity ripoff look tame, and Jenny Kwan has got to go

Mike Farnworth (right) was supported by MLAs Jenny Kwan

VICTORIA – The B.C. NDP leadership contest is officially underway, with the entry of Vancouver Island veteran John Horgan in a reluctant reprise of his 2011 run against Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth.

Unfortunately for them, weekend campaign events were overshadowed by revelations of flagrant abuse of taxpayers’ money by the executive and board of the Portland Hotel Society. A pair of audits finally released last week on this network of Downtown Eastside social agencies revealed systematic looting of the $28 million a year in taxpayers’ money that has kept this supposed charity running.

Alas for the NDP, local MLA Jenny Kwan not only failed to keep an eye on it, her recently separated husband was one of the executives who took part for years, and she benefited to the tune of $35,000 in luxury travel. That’s what we know about, since much of the evidence wasn’t produced for the auditors.

When this Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous scheme finally came to light, Kwan hastily paid back the $35,000 and announced she’s taking an unpaid leave of absence. Her tearful claim that she believed nothing was wrong is simply not credible. She not only must have known of her husband Dan Small’s jet-set ways, she participated in at least two trips, one to Vienna and Bristol, England to do “research” and attend a poverty conference from high-end hotels.

If it wants to retain any shred of credibility as it spouts misleading poverty statistics and simplistic solutions, the party must get rid of Kwan, who has two years left to max out her MLA pension.

MLA pensions were a factor in the 2010 ouster of Carol James, who infuriated the old guard by trying to defuse a public backlash against a generous pay and benefits package worked out in private between the NDP and the B.C. Liberals. Kwan would later take a leading role in the caucus revolt that forced James out as leader.

Long-time political watchers will see the PHS abuse as a bigger, uglier version of the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holdings Society scandal. There the siphoning off of bingo funds from charities cost Mike Harcourt his job as premier. In that case, NDP MLAs sat on the board, took their monthly cut and kept quiet.

There’s more. Horgan became enraged last year at the reporter who took a tip from the B.C. Liberals to reveal the NDP was skimming constituency office budgets to pay for its own “ethnic outreach” operation in Vancouver. Horgan had rubber-stamped the plan with a since-dismissed legislature accountant, and thought he had kept it secret after the Auditor-General blew the whistle. His willingness to assess its ethics remains in question to this day.

Then there is Craig Keating, who took over as party president from Moe Sihota last year. Did he inherit the $72,000 salary negotiated by Sihota with the B.C. Federation of Labour and two of its largest unions? If so, do Horgan and Farnworth think this is appropriate?

Will the party’s joined-at-the-hip relationship with government unions even be discussed in the carefully staged leadership contest that’s about to begin?

Then there’s the policy shipwreck left behind by Adrian Dix. His plan to use environmental assessment as a weapon to torpedo industrial projects remains popular with the party’s urban base.

Farnworth and Horgan have paid lip service to the notion that projects like the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion should be properly assessed. Meanwhile the federal NDP fights to keep stacking public hearings with pre-selected protesters.

The party may wish to consider what would give its next B.C. leader any hope of governing.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press newspapers.

 

 

Just Posted

Everything you need to know before getting the flu shot

Local pharmacist shares concerns, recommendations before flu season hits

Victoria’s Ultimate Toy Fair bounces back into Pearkes

The family-friendly event runs Oct. 19-20 at Pearkes

Rugby Canada helps recovery efforts in Japan after typhoon cancels final match

Canadian players wanted to “give back in whatever small way they could”

Victoria feels the pinch at the pump as gas prices jump 18 cents

Gas up to 157.9 cents per litre at some stations

‘Panda’ Goodlife runner searches for his head

Facebook post for help leads to ‘unconfirmed panda head sightings’

WATCH: Greater Victoria’s top stories of the day

A round-up of the day’s top stories

Potent power play paces Canucks to 5-1 win over Detroit

Miller nets a pair as Vancouver wins third straight

UPDATE: British couple vacationing in Vancouver detained in U.S. after crossing border

CBP claims individuals were denied travel authorization, crossing was deliberate

After losing two baby boys, B.C. parents hope to cut through the taboo of infant death

Oct. 15 is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day in B.C.

Cheating husband sues mistress for gifted ring after wife learns about affair

The husband gave his mistress $1,000 to buy herself a ring in December 2017

POLL: Do you think the day of the federal election should be a statutory holiday?

Increasing voter turnout has long been a goal of officials across the… Continue reading

B.C. massage therapist reprimanded, fined for exposing patients’ breasts

Registered massage therapist admits professional misconduct

B.C. boosts legal aid funding in new payment contract

‘Duty counsel’ service restored in some communities, David Eby says

VIDEO: Bear spies on cyclists riding by on Campbell River street

Riders seem unaware the bruin is mere feet away on the side of the road

Most Read