OUT FROM THE SHADOWS
B.C. government insider who blew the whistle on a pair of scandals that rocked Christy Clark’s Liberals is sounding the alarm again
The man who blew the whistle on a pair of government scandals that rocked Premier Christy Clark’s Liberals is stepping from the shadows and sounding the alarm again.
For the first time, Jeff Melland is revealing himself as the original source of the 2013 “quick-wins” affair that brought down a B.C. cabinet minister and two senior government staffers.
Melland, who worked as a Liberal caucus communications officer at the legislature from 2008-12, is also outing himself as the whistleblower who exposed a vicious anti-NDP website developed using B.C. taxpayers’ resources. Government employees were “reproached” in that case.
“Taxpayers’ money and taxpayers’ resources were being abused — I felt the public deserved to know,” Melland, 46, said Wednesday in an exclusive interview.
Now, he’s blowing the whistle again, releasing a 2013 audio recording of a phone conversation between himself and Primrose Carson, who is still executive director of the Liberal caucus at the legislature.
In the phone call, Carson asks Melland if he would be interested in a job with the Liberal caucus doing research for unelected Liberal candidates before the 2013 election.
“Nominated candidates are looking for communications material that we don’t normally provide out of caucus,” Carson says in the recording. “So we need somebody, like one person that when these requests come in, it just goes to one person and they deal with it. They produce the materials or get it, you know just co-ordinate it, and provide it back to the party or back to the candidate.”
Carson said the material would be for Liberal candidates seeking information on government activity in their ridings.
“Let’s say you have a nominated candidate in, I don’t know, Vancouver East and he needs information on, you know, a transportation project in their area.”
“So I’d be working out of caucus, though, or?” Melland asks.
“Yeah, you’d be working for caucus,” Carson responds. “For me.”
Melland said he never followed up on the conversation.
“I wasn’t going to take a job where I was being paid by B.C. taxpayers to do work for the B.C. Liberal party,” he said.
But Carson denied any wrongdoing.
“Any of the work done by caucus was publicly posted on the caucus website at the time,” Carson said Wednesday. “All of the work done was appropriate.”
She said it was “false and untrue” that the job entailed working for Liberal candidates while being paid by taxpayers because the research assembled by staff was made available to anyone on the caucus’s public website, adding Melland’s claims are “misleading.”
Melland — who now lives in Hawaii and is undergoing treatment for a brain tumour — said he decided to record the 2013 phone call because he was concerned that the government was suspicious he was the source of earlier leaks.
Melland revealed that he gave a 17-page secret document to the NDP entitled “Draft Multicultural Outreach Strategy.” The NDP released the explosive document — which Melland said he worked on personally — triggering the 2013 “quick-wins” scandal.
The document described a plan to use taxpayer-financed staff and resources — including “ethnic outreach workers” and government translation services — to score “quick wins” with ethnic communities and compile ethnic contact lists for the Liberal party.
“I blew the whistle on that,” Melland said, adding he “collated” the material in the document after it was assembled by others. “It was outrageous.”
The scandal triggered multiple government apologies and resignations and the Liberals refunded $70,000 in misspent taxpayers’ money to the public treasury. One ex-government communications manager still faces a criminal breach-of-trust charge in the aftermath of the scandal.
Melland also revealed he was the source for a 2012 Province story revealing how taxpayers’ resources were used to produce a Liberal party website called CantAffordDix.ca, aimed at then-NDP leader Adrian Dix.
“It was the public’s money used for a Liberal party product,” Melland said, adding such behaviour was standard operating procedure.
“It was different when Gordon Campbell was in charge,” Melland said, referring to the former premier who resigned in 2010. “We were regularly told back then: ‘Don’t do Liberal party work during office hours or on the legislature grounds.’ It was a very clear line.”
Melland is now concentrating on his health and doesn’t miss B.C. politics, though he had some advice for Green party Leader Andrew Weaver, who holds the balance of power in a minority legislature and is considering supporting Clark as she fights to stay in power.
“She will do her absolute best to get Andrew Weaver to hitch his wagon to the Liberal party,” Melland said. “My ... opinion is that if Andrew Weaver is sincere about his core priorities, he would be foolish to prop up Christy Clark.”
Jeff Melland, the former government insider who blew the whistle on the so-called ‘quick-wins’ scandal, has some advice for Green Leader Andrew Weaver.
Whistleblower Jeff Melland, not pictured, has advice for the Green party: ‘ ... if Andrew Weaver is sincere about his core priorities, he would be foolish to prop up Christy Clark.’