British Columbia

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk refuses to resign over secret bonuses

B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk says he has no plans to resign despite the release of new emails raising questions about his involvement in secret bonuses paid to new executives at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

NDP says Advanced Education minister 'demonstrated bad judgment not once, not twice, but three times'

Advanced education minister under fire

8 years ago
Duration 2:18
B.C. government stands by Amrik Virk despite NDP calls for his resignation

B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk says he has no plans to resign, despite the release of new emails raising questions about his involvement in secret bonuses paid to new executives at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

The provincial New Democrats have been calling on Virk to resign after releasing emails sent from Virk's RCMP email account that suggest he was more involved in the hiring of the institution's former vice-president Anne Lavack than previously thought.

The opposition says the emails show Virk, who was a volunteer member of the university's board, knew more than he previously admitted about how the board broke disclosure requirements by topping up salaries of senior executives to sweeten job offers.

Yesterday, B.C. Finance Minister Mike de Jong ordered a new review of the emails.

Officials at the Finance Ministry said de Jong will ask Rob Mingay, a high-level bureaucrat who issued a report in June reviewing board practices, to examine the new documents and determine if the emails would have resulted in different conclusions in that report.

NDP calls for resignation

NDP Leader John Horgan said Virk should be dumped from cabinet.

"Mr. Virk has demonstrated bad judgment not once, not twice, but three times and it's probably time for him to get out of cabinet," said Horgan.

But Virk says there is no need for him to resign because he cooperated with a previous review by high-level bureaucrat Rob Mingay.

"I serve at the pleasure of the premier. These are emails from 2011 in my voluntary role as a board member of a university, and I've provided as I said the fullest information to the best of my ability to Mr. Mingay in his review of compensation," said Virk.

Virk confirmed the newly released emails were legitimate, but said he did not recall writing them.

"Those emails are from an account I haven't had access to for close to two years," he said.

Disclosure guidelines violated

Mingay's previous report concluded the Vancouver-area polytechnic university's board failed to meet government disclosure requirements when it topped up salaries of senior executives.

When Mingay's report was released, de Jong said Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk's actions during his time as a volunteer board member at Kwantlen were not acceptable, but he also said those actions did not warrant penalties.

B.C. Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk presents his arm to an acupuncture practitioner at an announcement naming Kwantlen Polytechnic University as the new home for B.C.'s first public Chinese medicine program. (B.C. Government Newsroom Flickr)

It report found Kwantlen's board violated government disclosure guidelines on two occasions: once during the 2011 process of hiring Lavack and again during the hiring of current president Alan Davis.

Mingay's report found a Kwantlen board offer of an extra $50,000 to Lavack as a pre-employment contract "was inconsistent with the spirit and intent of Public Sector Employment Council's guidelines."

The report also found a $50,000 pre-employment contract in 2012 with Davis "was inconsistent with the spirit and intent of PSEC's guidelines."

The report found the Kwantlen board was not aware of Lavack's extra $50,000, but the board, of which Virk was a member, was aware of the $50,000 for Davis.

The emails released Monday indicate Virk, through his RCMP account, appeared to be more aware of and involved in the Lavack hiring process.

In one email, Virk appears to offering tips on how to improve the board's financial offer to Lavack.

Mingay's report did not call for sanctions against Kwantlen or Virk. Instead, he recommended disclosure and reporting sessions for bureaucrats at the Post-Secondary Employers' Association and the Public Sector Employer's Council, as well as staff within the Advanced Education Ministry.

The report also recommended board members at post-secondary institutions be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when it comes to transparency in disclosing compensation agreements.

With files from The Canadian Press and CBC News


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