Liberals' multicultural strategy 'insulting': Chouhan
The BC Liberals' controversial multicultural strategy is no different than its earlier plan to use a proposed upgrade of Burnaby Hospital as an issue to win votes with, says Burnaby-Edmonds NDP MLA Raj Chouhan.
"I'm really appalled the government is still doing these kinds of gimmicks," Chouhan said, noting the earlier hospital strategy was less about improving health care and more a "plan to win people over."
The latest controversy has led to the resignation of the premier’s deputy chief of staff, Kim Haakstad, who distributed the strategy document to the personal email addresses of several Liberal operatives. And John Yap, the minister responsible for multiculturalism, has stepped aside while a review is conducted of the issue.
The document, sent out in January 2012 and leaked to the Opposition NDP last week, appeared to show taxpayer-funded government staff and resources being used in an attempt to win votes for the BC Liberals among ethnic communities.
"It's insulting the way that this government thinks that they can contact or do something for ethnic communities and buy their votes," said Chouhan. "Rather than focusing on running a good government this government is wasting taxpayer money, taxpayer resources on these kinds of gimmicks."
Noting that the province is spending $11 million to bring the Times of India Film Awards, a "manufactured awards" show, to British Columbia, Chouhan asked, "was that just about 'blockbuster events' or 'quick wins'?" he said, referring to two categories of goals set out in the ethnic outreach strategy.
The government has lost its credibility to the point that even if they came up with a legitimate initiative involving ethnic communities, "people don't believe them anymore," he said.
"All political parties do everything they can to reach out to ethnic communities, we have no problem with that. What's bothersome is when you use the government staff, government resources for political purposes, that's what we are questioning."
For new politician Jane Shin, the New Democrat candidate for Burnaby-Lougheed, the revelations about the strategy document were disappointing.
"As someone who's stepping into this arena, I was distressed to see that."
There's no dispute that with such a rich multicultural heritage in B.C., the government has an obligation to celebrate and build upon ethnic communities, Shin said. What is objectionable is spending tax dollars on the BC Liberals' election machinery.
As an ethnic minority herself, Shin, who is of Korean heritage, said she expects people from minority groups will be just as disappointed as she is that "the intention [of multicultural outreach programs] was less than what we thought it was."
Burnaby-Lougheed Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, who was the minister in charge of multiculturalism when the document was distributed, did not return a message from the NewsLeader requesting comment.
Fellow Burnaby Liberal MLA Richard Lee (Burnaby North) did respond and clarified that his six-month stint in 2011 as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of State for Multiculturalism ended before the document went out.
"The first time I heard about the strategy was from the news, actually," Lee said, noting he has yet to read the strategy document.
Lee said the controversy raises the issue about the difference between politics and government. He noted he makes a point to keep his constituency office as non-partisan as possible.
"There's a fine line between government and party and MLA, I think we have to be careful on crossing those lines. I think that's a concern."