Gordon Wilson defends his job performance after being fired by NDP
VICTORIA – B.C.’s new NDP government fired former Liberal leader Gordon Wilson from a well-paid advisory job on Tuesday, citing a lack of written work. But Wilson argued that was not a true measurement of his performance.
Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston said an internal review concluded there’s no evidence of any written reports to back up the $550,000 that Wilson had been paid as the “LNG – Buy B.C. advocate” since 2013.
“His contract has been reviewed. We were unable to locate any written reports by him setting out what he had done to earn that money, so the decision has been to end the contract,” said Ralston.
The review concluded that “apparently he reported orally” on the progress of his work.
“But there’s not even notes of that,” said Ralston.
The Liberal government created the LNG position specifically for Wilson, who endorsed Clark in the 2013 election. He was supposed to encourage companies interested in building liquefied natural gas plants in B.C. to purchase supplies and services from B.C. businesses.
“I wasn’t hired to write reports,” Wilson said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a bit like evaluating the work of your plumber by counting the number of light fixtures they put in. My job was to act as an advocate for B.C. businesses, both First Nations and non-First Nations.”
Wilson said that advocacy included making sure the industry and companies were aware of opportunities for work, that corporations and sub-contractors were properly certified for the LNG industry and that First Nations groups were given meaningful opportunities to do business and engage in the sector, including obtaining training.
“I was very much that kind of hands-on advocate,” he said. “I did report to government orally, usually through either my deputy minister or associate deputy minister, with respect to what some of those impediments (to business) were. And when requested, which was not frequent, I would directly communicate with (then jobs) minister (Shirley) Bond.”
Those oral briefings would have formed part of the material that Ralston and other NDP ministers received on the topic of LNG in the transition binders they were given upon forming government, said Wilson.
The former Liberal government had said Wilson met the obligations and expectations for the job listed in his contract. But the NDP have hammered the Liberals for paying Wilson to create an LNG website that had no job opportunities. Last week, Malaysian state-owned oil and gas giant Petronas abandoned its plans to build a proposed $36 billion LNG facility on B.C.’s north coast.
“That was just heart-breaking to see them walk away,” Wilson said of Petronas.
“We were so close to having that together. And I think what hasn’t been said and what needs to be said, and it might even smack of a bit of criticism of the previous government but it’s important as an advocate for the industry to make it clear: The reason we’re having difficulty in getting these companies up and running is because of the cost of doing business in British Columbia.
“We do not have comparable and favourable tax systems in B.C., particularly on the capital side. We have a very protracted and somewhat uncertain environmental assessment processes that need to be made much tighter and more certain, and we have a lot of work to be done with First Nations who quite rightly want to have their positions heard and be adequately consulted and engaged.”
The LNG industry, as promised by the Liberals in the 2013 election, has failed to materialize. Wilson said there was some work available in the site preparation, environment assessment and review processes that companies undertook before deciding on final investment decisions.
For the NDP, Wilson’s termination continues an NDP trend of cleaning house of Liberal-connected appointees.
“I think he was clearly a friend of the (former) premier’s and got a contract on that basis,” said Ralston.
Last month, the NDP also fired the chairs of B.C. Hydro and the Insurance Corporation of B.C. The new NDP-appointed Hydro board subsequently fired CEO Jessica McDonald.
The terms of Wilson’s contract had specific language for termination, and he will not be receiving any severance, said Ralston.
“No there’s no severance. He’s just done.”
Wilson was formerly a leader of the Liberal party, who later crossed the floor to become an NDP cabinet minister. His wife, Judi Tyabji, wrote a book about Clark when she was premier. Wilson’s son, Matthew, unsuccessfully ran for the B.C. Liberals in the riding of Powell River-Sunshine Coast in the 2017 election.
“I don’t find it surprising they’d want to take me out,” Wilson said, acknowledging his Liberal connections. “But I hope they would keep the program. The Buy B.C. LNG program is an outstanding program.”
He said criticism he’s received for getting work because he supported Clark’s Liberals is a bit like the new NDP government recently appointing former NDP cabinet minister Joy McPhail to chair the board of the Insurance Corporation of B.C.
ROB SHAW (Vancouver Sun)
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