British Columbia

B.C. minister steps aside during 'ethnic vote' probe

B.C. Multiculturalism Minister John Yap is leaving his cabinet post while an investigation is conducted into the party's strategy to woo ethnic voters, Premier Christy Clark confirmed Monday following a caucus meeting.

John Yap was minister responsible for multiculturalism

'Ethnic vote' scandal may claim premier

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8 years ago
B.C. premier Christy Clark's growing pre-election crisis now threatens her leadership 3:17

B.C. Multiculturalism Minister John Yap is leaving his cabinet post while an investigation is conducted into the Liberal Party's strategy to woo ethnic voters, Premier Christy Clark confirmed Monday following a caucus meeting.

Clark said Yap has stepped aside as minister responsible for multiculturalism and minister of advanced education, innovation and technology until a review of the leaked government strategy document is completed by her deputy minister, John Dyble.

The premier wouldn't explain why Yap was stepping aside, but said Minister of State for Seniors Ralph Sultan would be taking over Yap's duties.

Yap told reporters that he's taking responsibility for the contents of the leaked email — but he also said he had never seen the document.

"I'm the minister responsible. This is an issue that involves multiculturalism and the responsibility rests with me as the current minister responsibility for multiculturalism," said Yap.

His resignation comes as scandal continues to swirl over the controversial leaked email, which documented the Liberals' plans to win ethnic voters — and possibly using taxpayer resources to do it.

On Friday, Clark's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad resigned without severance over the 17-page "Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan" that she helped draft more than a year ago and then emailed to several Liberals via her private Google email account.

The document was leaked by the NDP in the legislature, prompting Clark to apologize once last week, and once again after Sunday's emergency cabinet meeting.

Clark apologizes, again

On Monday, Clark apologized again, but this time in the legislature, for the creation of the strategy by government staffers who proposed to use the plan to entice ethnic voters in the run-up to the May provincial election.

Clark said the document should never have been created.

"I want to apologize for the ideas in it and I want to apologize for the language in it as well," she said.

Liberal caucus members leaving a meeting with Clark Monday at the legislature said they were united behind Clark, but were also awaiting the outcome of Dyble's review. The premier suggested that Dyble's review could result in further actions.

Preliminary results of a probe into the document were expected last Friday, but nothing was released. MLAs say they want the review made public as soon as possible and are asking the premier to hold those found responsible to account.

Cabinet backs Clark

Monday's caucus meeting came after Clark emerged Sunday night from an emergency cabinet meeting in Vancouver to say her front benches were united and she will lead the party into the next election.

Ministers said Clark will stay at the helm, but some described the leaked Liberal strategy — which also proposed the use of taxpayer-funded resources to attain partisan goals — as "a doozy" of a political mistake.

The scandal has slammed Clark's government and prompted open anger from some caucus members and outrage from some party members. A faction of the Liberal party has called for Clark's resignation over the memo.

But Clark stated after Sunday’s cabinet meeting she would not resign, adding her cabinet is "united" in the face of the scandal. B.C.’s next election is slated for May 14, 2013.

Adrian Dix responds

The leader of the B.C. NDP responded to the ongoing B.C. Liberal controversy today. In an interview on CBC Radio One's On the Coast with host Stephen Quinn, Dix said the multicultural memo hurts the perception of everyone in politics.

"The strategy should be very disconcerting to everybody in British Columbia, it's very disrespectful to the taxpayer," said Dix, "I think this increases public cynicism about everyone in politics."

Dix also pointed to Premier Clark bringing the Times of India Awards, a Bollywood gala, to Vancouver as direct evidence of the multicultural strategy in action.

"These are serious problems, the expenditure of public money, and just go through the document," he said, "they talk about blockbuster events...the government is spending 11-million dollars on a blockbuster event on the eve of the election."

When asked about how long the NDP was in possession of the leaked documents, Dix said he did not know. When pressed further, he said it would've been in the past few weeks.

"I think it was a couple of weeks, we assessed the documents and then we asked questions in the legislature about them, which I think is absolutely fair."

Dix said that every document the NDP has related to this issue is now with the Deputy Minister to the Premier John Dyble, who is in charge of the investigation into the memo.

With files from The Canadian Press