B.C. families pay for Premier Clark’s failed pet project

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John Horgan, Leader, BC NDP
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader
John Horgan, BC NDP Leader

By John Horgan, Leader, BC New Democrats

Victoria: Whether I’m on the Island or in the Interior, the Coast or the Kootenays, everywhere I go, people tell me their family needs a break.

Families are being hit hard with MSP premiums that have doubled since the Liberals took office. They went up again this year – faster than the rate of inflation. Hydro rates are skyrocketing – and will go up by 28 per cent in the next three years. ICBC premiums continue to rise. Transit fares, ferry fares, tolls, the list goes on. A stay in your favourite provincial park is going to cost you more. A beer or a glass of wine at your neighbourhood restaurant is going to cost you more.

So if Premier Christy Clark wants you to send more and more of your hard-earned paycheque to Victoria, what is she spending it on?

Well, this week we saw the latest example of B.C. Liberal mismanagement: millions of your dollars wasted and no end in sight. I’m talking about the premier’s pet project, the Auditor General for Local Government.

 

When Christy Clark first launched this office, she promised that it would be a cost-effective way of ensuring that local governments were spending your money properly. She handed the office an annual budget of $2.6 million dollars and promised it would deliver 18 audits in the first year.

In the two years since the office was formed, the Auditor General for Local Government has completed just three audits – two of them released just this week after New Democrats raised the alarm that only one audit had been completed in two years at a cost of $5.2 million.

As the months – and years – ticked by, did the premier ever wonder why her signature project had gotten so little work done?

We know now that the Auditor General for Local Government was in total chaos. Leaked documents released by the New Democrats showed that there was turmoil within the office from the beginning. The review showed disorganization, lack of direction and poor management. At one point, the government had to send in human resources professionals to act as peacekeepers.

When we first raised these concerns, the minister in charge, Coralee Oakes brushed them off, saying the Auditor General for Local Government office was working as it was intended. As the controversy became too much for the government to ignore, her mood changed to “disappointed” and finally, after three weeks of denials and deflection, she fired the auditor.

Unfortunately, the problem remains. The auditor for local government may have been fired, but she’s headed to court to dispute her dismissal. So, on top of the $5.2 million dollars Clark has already spent on this office, and the additional money spent to review its poor performance, you will also be paying for government lawyers to battle it out in court, and likely a costly settlement with the former auditor.

It didn’t need to be this way. When the premier first started pushing her AGLG, the BC NDP pointed out the province already employs a well-respected Auditor General. But the premier didn’t listen, and seemed dead set on a shiny new office.

Now, after two years, and more than $5 million of your dollars spent, it’s clear that Premier Clark’s pet project has been an enormous, expensive failure. And your bill is just getting bigger.

British Columbians want accountability in their local governments. We want it in our provincial government too. Premier Clark must take responsibility for wasting your money. With all this mismanagement, it’s no wonder why British Columbians feel they’re paying more and getting less.