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 Province - - FRONT PAGE - Mike Smyth msmyth@post­media.com twit­ter.com/mikesmyth­news

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.”

— YOUTUBE

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.

NICK PROCAYLO/PNG FILES

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.’

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