Taxpayers were dinged $3,600 when Premier Christy Clark made a surprising and rare Saturday afternoon cabinet shuffle March 24.
The Office of the Premier issued a 5: 30 p.m. news release announcing two-term Richmond Liberal MLA John Yap had become the new Minister of State for Multiculturalism and Dr. Moira Stilwell, Liberal MLA for Vancouver-Langara, and Rob Howard, Liberal for MLA Richmond Centre, were appointed parliamentary secretaries. Neither the news release nor the accompanying three-minute and 20 second video clip identified the venue.
"A great thank-you for your honour today for welcoming us here at this multicultural centre, which I think is an important statement to the community which we know John Yap will be serving with distinction," Clark said in the video.
Records obtained via Freedom of Information show the video was shot by Oh Boy Productions for $616 in a Chinese Cultural Centre room rented for $150. The attendance list consisted of Clark, Yap and his three family members, Lt. Gov. Steven Point, bodyguard Maj. Don Bentley, private secretary James Hammond, deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, protocol chief MarcAndre Ouellette and deputy cabinet secretary Elizabeth McMillan.
No media advisory was issued for the 3: 30 to 4: 30 p.m. ceremony and reception. The draft agenda contemplated hosting media during the ceremony and a scrum afterward.
Ouellette submitted a March 23 Business Expense Approval form for $3,600 on March 27. The biggest cost was $2,300 for audio/visual services by Proshow, including $100 for rental of a British Columbia flag and stand. The Bible Yap clutched in his left hand while Point administered the oaths of office, allegiance and confidentiality cost $50 from the Queen's Printer. City Graden Florist billed $81.20 for lapel flowers and a bouquet. Ouellette bought 11 bottles of water and juice from Everything Café at 2: 55 p.m. and flew to Victoria on Harbour Air at 4: 40 p.m. with a person whose name was censored for $247.52.
Yap, previously Parliamentary Secretary to energy minister Rich Coleman, was appointed to replace Burnaby's Harry Bloy, who resigned from cabinet March 15 after breaching his oath of confidentiality. Bloy leaked an email message from a Province reporter to an executive of Eminata, a troubled private education company that the newspaper was investigating.
Bloy's resignation, coincidentally, came the day after the first anniversary of Clark's swearing-in as premier at Government House in Victoria. Reporters were invited to that event.
Stilwell was Minster of Advanced Education from June 2009 to October 2010 and unsuccessfully ran for the party leadership in February 2011. She became Parliamentary Secretary to health minister Mike de Jong. Howard became Parliamentary Secretary to transport minister Blair Lekstrom.
On March 22, two days before Yap's secret swearing-in, Clark announced the April 19 by-elections for Port Moody and Chilliwack, which were eventually won by NDP candidates.
The cabinet shuffle was upstaged by the shocking March 26 resignation of John van Dongen from the Liberal caucus in the Legislature. The veteran Abbotsford MLA defected to the Conservative Party but sits as an independent. He cited the bungled B.C. Place Stadium naming rights deal with Telus as the last straw.
Haakstad did not respond to phone and email messages.