Leaked ethnic voter plan rocks B.C. Liberals

Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, minister responsible for multiculturalism - Black Press files
Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap, minister responsible for multiculturalism
— image credit: Black Press files

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal government was on the defensive Wednesday after the NDP released a leaked internal document that describes using non-partisan government staff resources to improve the party's standing with ethnic communities.

The January, 2012 strategy document also refers to "quick wins" for popularity with ethnic voters, referring to a 2008 apology in the B.C. legislature for turning away a ship carrying Indian immigrants from Vancouver harbour in 1914.

Multiculturalism minister John Yap said the memo is an "old planning document" that he did not proceed with when he took over responsibility for multiculturalism in September 2012.

Yap confirmed that the government is planning an apology to the Chinese community for charging a head tax on Chinese immigrants in B.C.'s early years, but he refused to comment on whether that is one of the pre-election "quick wins" referred to in the strategy memo.

The memo was distributed by Kim Haakstad, Premier Christy Clark's deputy chief of staff. Recipients included Pamela Martin, the former TV anchor hired by Clark as her director of outreach, and Lorne Mayencourt, the former Vancouver MLA who serves as director of outreach for the B.C. Liberal caucus.

The memo calls for a variety of strategies to improve relations with ethnic communities, including identifying supporters to contact ethnic media. "We had a lot of white small business people telling Chinese-Canadians the HST was good," it states.

NDP critics focused on the document's references to using government communications resources to help build the B.C. Liberal Party's database of supporters in immigrant communities.

"The document demonstrates the folding together of government services and resources into the election machinery of the B.C. Liberal Party," NDP house leader John Horgan told the legislature Wednesday.

Yap took over responsibility from former multiculturalism minister Harry Bloy, who resigned from cabinet in March 2012 after leaking a reporter's e-mail to the owner of a chain of colleges for foreign students.

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