B.C. Liberals grapple with resignations amid 'ethnic vote' conflict
Liberal Caucus Chair Gordon Hogg insists party is not divided
As B.C. Liberals deal with the aftermath surrounding the leak of a controversial document outlining a plan to win the "ethnic vote" in the upcoming provincial election, the party is also grappling with the recent resignations of several local representatives.
James Plett resigned from the Liberals' Surrey-Tynehead riding association on Friday.
On his blog, Plett said he was "appalled" by the recent controversy and said the B.C. Liberal Party had a "pattern of arrogance, deceit, and downright unethical behavior."
'I am horribly embarrassed that my name was still associated with that party.'—James Plett, former vice president of Surrey-Tynehead riding
"I am horribly embarrassed that my name was still associated with that party," Plett wrote. "I'm not the only one who feels this way."
The Liberals also recently lost riding presidents in Surrey-Whalley, Surrey-Fleetwood, and Surrey-Green Timbers, although two of the resignations came well before the "Multicultural Strategy" was leaked.
Earlier this week, the president of the B.C. Liberal Riding Association for Abbotsford Mission stepped down, too.
Cory Cassel, a Liberal for 13 years, became a member of the Green Party of B.C.
"My experience with the B.C. Liberal Party is that the people that are involved in the local riding associations are nothing more than procedure," Cassel said.
They are "there to fill a legal obligation and to give a perception that the party actually cares about what the people in communities care about."
Members of B.C.'s Chinese and South Asian communities reacted with outrage and called the actions of the Liberal party "disrespectful" and "immoral."
On Friday Kim Haakstad, Clark's deputy chief of staff, resigned after it was revealed she had offered advice and input during the drafting stages of the "Multicultural Strategy" outlined in the leaked documents.
The documents, leaked by the opposition NDP, were originally sent from Haakstad's email account in January last year and revealed a proposed outreach plan involving the premier's office, the Multiculturalism Ministry, the government caucus and the B.C. Liberal Party.
It also outlined "quick wins" for the Liberals, such as making apologies in the Legislature for historical wrongs and specifically mentioned the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, which saw a ship carrying 356 passengers forced to return to India after a two-month stand-off in Vancouver Harbour.
Premier Gordon Campbell already issued an official apology regarding the Komagata Maru incident in 2008.
Clark, who accepted Haakstad's resignation Friday night, maintains she didn't know who crafted the controversial document and said she has asked for a review to ensure no government resources were inappropriately used.
Clark apologized in a written statement on Thursday for the language used in the document.
Liberals "working together"
Privately, some Liberal MLAs have told CBC News that they feel B.C. Premier Christy Clark is in a perpetual state of campaigning and needs to stand with her caucus members.
Despite the controversies, B.C. Liberal Caucus Chair Gordon Hogg dismissed questions about divisions within the party.
"I don't think we're more divided, but I think there's more energy around that division right now as people are perceiving it," he said. "People are getting more anxious as you move to an election."
When asked if he still supported the premier, Hogg said that they were "a part of a caucus team" and that they were all "working together."
"I support the process we're in and the premier is our leader," he said.
Clark will not be making a public appearance this weekend but will be at a caucus meeting on Monday. B.C.'s next provincial election is slated for May.
With files from CBC's Dan Burritt