GOING, going, gone!
Amrik Virk was moved from the Advanced Education portfolio on Thursday and appointed the Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services.
Andrew Wilkinson, who was Minister of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services, is the new Minister of Advanced Education.
Christy Clark announced the change in cabinet after months of controversy about Virk’s role in “underhanded executive compensation practices”, as NDP Advanced Education Critic David Eby put it, when he was on the Kwantlen Polytechnic University board of governors.
Just last month Clark had refused Opposition demands to remove Virk from the portfolio after the NDP released emails that showed Virk did participate in the discussions about a hidden bonus for then-University of Regina dean of business Ann Lavack to lure her to become vice-president academic (VPA) for KPU.
Virk, who was an RCMP inspector when he was on the KPU board of governors in April 2011, emailed: “Given the low pay level of a VPA at Kwantlen and the difficulty in drawing candidates within the current pay scale, the research leave is one way to ‘top’ off the pay level.”
Virk said he had forgotten about the email.
Finance Minister Mike de Jong also came to Virk’s defence, telling media that Virk had already admitted to his past disclosure inadequacies. He ordered a renewed investigation of the new emails.
On Thursday, the government announced that an examination of new material provided in the review of Kwantlen Polytechnical University’s board of directors had been completed and it found that some of KPU’s administrative staff and the search consultant were aware of an offer letter and pre-employment contract for former Kwantlen vice-president and provost, Anne Lavack.
Rob Mingay, the assistant deputy minister directed to conduct the review, had completed the original review of allegations related to contracts for executive staff in June. De Jong asked him last month to review the new information tabled in the legislature to determine whether it changed the findings of fact, conclusions or recommendations in his original report.
Mingay found the new information serves to revise the statements of fact contained in the report and the conclusions that can be drawn from them, based on the new information tabled in the legislature. The change to the conclusion only serves to reinforce the importance of the recommendations in the original report, the letter says.
Mingay letter to Minister de Jong regarding new information: http://ow.ly/G88Zv
KPU executive compensation review June 2014 release: http://ow.ly/G8htB
THE NDP said that the B.C. Liberals were “rewarding a minister who broke executive compensation rules and then hid his involvement for months.”
“Minister Amrik Virk broke executive compensation rules while on the board at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, then he went to extraordinary lengths to hide his actions from the public. But rather than removing him from cabinet, the B.C. Liberals are once again protecting their friends, shuffling him to another portfolio,” said New Democrat advanced education spokesperson Kathy Corrigan.
“Minister Virk treated the public and the legislature with disdain during his time on this file, and now the premier is rewarding him with a new cabinet post.”
Corrigan also noted that Virk has shown himself to be uniquely unqualified for his new role.
“It is unfathomable that a minister who has hidden information from the public should be selected over all other government MLAs to be the minister in charge of Freedom of Information; and that the same minister, who blamed his problems accessing email for his inability to hand over relevant evidence in the KPU compensation investigation, should be our new minister of technology,” said Corrigan.
In light of the confirmation on Thursday from Rob Mingay that Virk was actively involved in compensation rule-breaking, the premier should have acted immediately to relieve Virk of his cabinet post.
“Minister Virk should have done the honourable thing months ago and stepped down. Failing that, the premier had a duty to the public to step in and fire him. Instead, the B.C. Liberals protected their friends, and put the people of this province last,” said Corrigan.