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Premier's adviser forced to quit over ethnic-vote scandal

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VICTORIA -- B.C. Premier Christy Clark accepted the resignation Friday of one of her closest advisers as the fallout over a leaked strategy aimed at wooing ethnic voters continued to rock her Liberal government.

Kim Haakstad, who was Clark's deputy chief of staff and has worked with the premier for years, resigned as the controversy over the ethnic-vote strategy tore at caucus unity.

"Kim reached her decision after much consideration of her roles and responsibilities," Clark said in a statement late Friday afternoon.

At least one Liberal MLA slammed his own party publicly over the leaked memo, which appeared to condone using public money to help the Liberals spread their ethnic message in time for the May 14 election.

Dave Hayer, an Indo-Canadian who has been a Liberal MLA since 2001, condemned the plan Friday, adding his voice to a furor unleashed earlier in the week when the Opposition NDP leaked the 17-page strategy document dated January 2012.

"This proposed outreach plan was insulting to the intended targeted communities and was, when I found out about it, insulting to me and to all other MLAs who believe in doing things properly, fairly and within the rules and laws of the legislature," Hayer said.

The document outlines a plan involving the premier's office, the multiculturalism ministry, the government caucus and the B.C. Liberal party.

The paper includes eight strategy components, including advice for "quick wins" gained by correcting historical wrongs. It also includes several references to tailoring government and Liberal news to the ethnic media, ensuring there is proper translation.

Use of taxpayer resources for political purposes is forbidden.

"In all my 12 years as an MLA I have always reached out to all communities, regardless of ethnic background, because that is the right thing to do," Hayer said.

"I believe in doing the right thing, regardless of whether it will, or will not, 'win the vote' of any particular group."

In an interview before Haakstad resigned, Hayer said the proposed policy -- which the Liberals have referred to as a draft -- was wrong.

"Nobody in their right mind would be telling anybody to do anything like this. I can tell you, all the MLAs I talked to think this is wrong. We think whoever did this should be held responsible."

As the fallout continued Friday, the Liberals were forced to explain that two of three riding association presidents who resigned recently quit their jobs well before the plan was leaked.

One person resigned last week and the other on Feb. 7, but a Liberal spokesman said it's unclear why the third riding president quit.

The B.C. government has promised to get to the bottom of whether public resources were used for political purposes, but the answers weren't coming as fast as the deputy premier suggested.

Deputy premier Rich Coleman read an apology from Clark in the legislature Thursday, saying the leaked strategy document appeared to cross the line.

Coleman said then he should know within 24 hours what went wrong and how, but on Friday, the premier's office issued only the terms of reference for the review.

They include a pledge to conduct interviews and review all documents related to the leaked strategy paper.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 2, 2013 A13

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