Christy Clarks Hand Delivered $150K Donation to Haida Gwaii Nation while Considering her Brothers $10-Million Windfarm Bid Leaves More Questions Than Answers

John Horgan didn't hold back while questioning Premier Christy Clark on a rather puzzling $150,000 donation that ended up indirectly benefitting her brother, Bruce Clark, President at Broadwing Renewables Inc.

A donation that appears to have no paper trail, policy, or even a record that the request for the donation was ever made. The donation went to a First Nations school in Haida Gwaii that oddly enough is under federal responsibility, not provincial, to complete a feasibility study on building a new gym for their school.

It's also worth noting that there had already been two of these studies done on the same school in the past 10 years paid for by federal funds.

While reading some of the exchange between Horgan and Clark (found here), I can't say I was too surprised to learn that an FOI into any and all communication related to this donation turned up absolutely nothing. So, like most things surrounding Clark and the B.C. Liberals, there seems to be a thick cloud of secrecy surrounding this decision. We are left with more questions than answers.

If Clark has decided it to be good practice to give out one-time donations of $150k to schools, how do other First Nations schools -- or any school, for that matter -- apply for such funds? I know there's a school in my district whose gym is half the size of any other similarly-sized school, and it desperately needs expanding and upgrading.

Not to mention the school in Saanich whose gym roof had been leaking for 20 years and was consistently denied funding to fix it, until recent parental outrage gained media attention.

Why was this First Nations school chosen over at least a dozen others that are in worse shape, or the 193 other schools in this province that are at high risk in the event of an earthquake? Clark says it's simply a coincidence that the school she choose to donate this cheque to -- without any form of written request -- just happened to be made in the midst of an election where Chief Ken Rae was seeking re-election (which he ended up narrowly winning shortly after Clark made the donation).

Here's where it gets really interesting: Chief Ken Rae has been a supporter of Clarks brother's proposed wind farm for some time now -- a business deal worth millions. If he had failed to be re-elected the deal would have died, as the other candidate didn't support it.

Clark is pleading ignorance on the whole thing and says she knew absolutely nothing about her brother's business deal, or his relationship with Chief Rae. I'm not sure about you but I find that rather hard to believe.

Where did the request for this donation come from? An FOI request turned up absolutely nothing. No written communication of any sort. No formal request. No policy or change to policy that would support such a donation to a federally funded school. So it's rather puzzling as to why Clark would decide, seemingly out of the blue, to pick this school at random, fly up to Haida Gwaii, and hand-deliver a cheque for $150k just to quickly turn around and leave.

I find it rather troubling that our premier clings to this mandate of yearly cuts to public education funding to the point that we are now watching towns being forced to close their only high school, school boards being forced into making devastating cuts to bus services, EA's, student supports, and janitorial time among other things.

As parents we are stuck in a constant state of fundraising, yet somehow, someway, she has no problem handing out cheques to schools the province isn't even in charge of without even being asked to do so.

I imagine that if some of our public schools had business deals with some of Clark's family, they too could get some surprise cheques personally delivered by Clark herself.

Christy Clark accused of interfering in local band election to aid brother’s deal


VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail

Published Tuesday, Dec. 08, 2015

Premier Christy Clark has been accused of interfering in a local band election to help a candidate who supports a $10-million wind farm proposal involving her brother, Bruce Clark.

Ms. Clark was not available for comment, but her office denied that the Premier’s recent visit to Haida Gwaii was in any way meant to influence the campaign of Chief Ken Rea, who was narrowly re-elected Monday, or to assist Mr. Clark’s business deal with the band.

“There’s no merit to this allegation whatsoever,” said Ben Chin, executive director of communications for Ms. Clark.

During her visit to Old Massett, a small native community on the north end of Haida Gwaii, Ms. Clark announced at a public meeting that the province was making a $150,000 grant to the Old Massett Village Council (OMVC).

The money is for a feasibility study of a proposed $4-million expansion to the 40-student elementary school on the reserve.

The announcement gave a boost to the campaign of Mr. Rea, who has been a long-time supporter of Mr. Clark’s proposed wind farm.

But Mr. Chin said there was no link between Ms. Clark’s visit and Mr. Clark’s private business dealings.

“The Premier is not aware of any relationship between Mr. Clark’s company and Old Massett Village Council,” Mr. Chin said.

Mr. Chin said the Premier went to Old Massett as a “relationship building” exercise, and it appears she got caught in political crossfire.

But Kimball Davidson, a candidate who was trying to unseat Mr. Rea, said the Premier’s surprise visit and the grant she announced on Nov. 26 unfairly helped his rival.

“I would consider it political interference,” Mr. Davidson said before Monday’s vote. “It’s in Bruce Clark’s best interest if Ken Rea becomes chief councillor again.”

Mr. Davidson, who got 117 votes to Mr. Rea’s 159, is opposed to the business deal between OMVC and Mr. Clark’s company, Broadwing Renewables Inc. and instead favours OMVC working in partnership with the Council of Haida Nation (CHN) to develop a wind farm.

Mr. Davidson said the school grant is curious because Chief Matthews Elementary School is on reserve lands, and is therefore a federal responsibility, and because two expansion studies have been done in the past 10 years with federal funds.

“I was kind of shocked that Christy Clark would come up here just to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to give you some money,’” Mr. Davidson said. “I think it all has to do with her brother.”

Mr. Clark said he had nothing to do with the grant and denied doing anything to get Ms. Clark to visit Old Massett.

“I have trouble getting her to come for family dinners,” he said.

Mr. Clark said he did help Mr. Rea make connections with government education officials.

“I simply told [Mr. Rea], ‘If you have issues, here’s who you talk to,’” he said.

Mr. Clark said due to his sister’s job as premier he is very sensitive to potential conflicts of interest, and he won’t get involved in business deals unless it’s through a public bidding process.

“At the end of the day, when you go through a public process and you’ve been prescreened and qualified and you have the best price and you win, I don’t see how anybody can complain about that,” he said.

Mr. Rea agreed Mr. Clark’s only role was that he helped make connections with the government.

“I don’t know anybody at the province, so Bruce gave me a number to call,” he said.

Mr. Rea said he dealt with officials in the Ministry of Education, not the Premier’s office, and Ms. Clark’s visit had nothing to do with the election.

“I don’t need her to come up to win or lose this election,” he said Monday, before the vote. “The real value for me to bring the Premier to help our community here is to give [the federal government] a kick.”

Mr. Rea said he was told by officials in Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (formerly Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada) that if he secured provincial funds, he could use it to leverage $2-million out of Ottawa and $2-million out of Victoria.

Old Massett school expansion funding under fire

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May 27, 2016 ·

Premier Christy Clark speaks to students, teachers elected officials and parents at Chief Matthews last November during a provincial announcement to fund a school expansion feasibility study. / OBSERVER ARCHIVES

A provincial grant for Chief Matthews Elementary sparked a 20-minute debate between Premier Christy Clark and Opposition leader John Horgan in the B.C. legislature.

The grant covered a $150,000 engineering study that could lead to a long-awaited expansion of the Old Massett school—a $4-million project that would add a gym and enough classrooms that Chief Matthews can go up to Grade 7, rather than Grade 5.

If approved, Ottawa will provide $2 million for the classrooms, while Victoria covers the $2 million cost of the gym.

During the May 11 debate, Horgan questioned why Clark’s government chose to fund the Chief Matthews study, but has no plans to fund similar work at other First Nations schools in B.C., which is normally a federal role.

“She came with a cheque for $150,000 that has no policy foundation whatsoever,” said Horgan, adding that a 2013 report by the federal budget office shows there are 12 other First Nations schools in B.C. with higher needs for repairs.

“The question is—why these kids and not the kids at the dozen other schools that are in poor or worse condition than the school in Old Massett?”

In response, Clark said while it may be unusual for the province to fund something like the Chief Matthews study, such changes are long overdue.

“The same old way of doing things hasn’t served many First Nations people across this country very well for a very long time,” she said.

When Clark announced the engineering grant for Chief Matthews in late November, Old Massett Village Council was in the middle of an election campaign.

On Dec. 8, the Globe and Mail quoted Kimball Davidson, then a candidate for chief councillor, who said the premier’s visit and the grant amounted to “political interference.”

At the time, Davidson said the visit would help re-elect Chief Councillor Ken Rea, who led the council when it partnered on a $10-million wind-farm proposal with Broadwing Renewables Inc., a company owned by the premier’s brother, Bruce Clark.

That story prompted the NDP to file Freedom of Information requests for any provincial policy documents made in the lead-up to the November announcement at Chief Matthews.

The NDP request came back empty, but in the legislature Clark said B.C.’s education ministry could indeed show that it started working with Old Massett on the Chief Matthews gym proposal back in November 2014—a year before the announcement.

On May 20, the ministry released nearly 70 pages of briefing notes, emails and draft news releases about the plan.

Among other things, the records show B.C.’s education minister and the regional director of Aboriginal Affairs had a joint meeting with Old Massett council on Nov. 28, 2014. Two B.C. deputy ministers discussed it in January with representatives of Haida Gwaii’s public school district.

Ken Rea says all anyone needed to do to learn about those meetings or how the province got involved was to give him a phone call.

“We went through the front door on this,” said Rea, who added that he’s flabbergasted the NDP didn’t call him or other Old Massett councillors.

“They’re willing to throw a small First Nation under the bus for political gain, without ever talking to us,” he said.

“It just stinks.”

Asked if he thought Clark’s visit interfered with the Old Massett election, Rea said if anything, the visit cost him—no chief in his right mind would bring in a B.C. Liberal or Conservative leader for political help.

Voting records show the NDP won 116 votes in Old Massett in the last B.C. election. The Liberals got four.

“The whole reason this started wasn’t my idea, wasn’t the province’s idea—it certainly wasn’t Bruce Clark’s idea, he had no idea what was going on,” said Rea.

The idea, he said, came from Ottawa.

Eric Magnuson, then the regional director of Aboriginal Affairs, told Rea almost two years ago that Ottawa could provide up to $2 million for Chief Matthews, but only if the province matched it.

In 2006, a federal engineering study suggested a $6.5 million expansion for the school.

It nearly went ahead, but then Aboriginal Affairs moved from a regional to a nation-wide funding program for First Nations schools, bumping Old Massett from next-in-line to 60 on the priority list.

Rea said the village has been looking to expand Chief Matthews since 2000, partly because students have to make an awkward transition to Tahayghen Elementary in Masset for Grade 6, only to switch again to George M. Dawson Secondary for Grade 8 and high school.

But Rea said pressure to expand to Grade 7 has grown in recent years, ever since the public school district started to float the idea of combining Tahayghen and GMD—a cost-saving measure for an area with low student numbers that is unpopular with many parents.

Chief Matthews is open to all children in the north end, non-Haida included.

Funding for non-aboriginal students is covered by a provincial sharing agreement, and Rea said more are going to Chief Matthews now, and with good reason—it’s a great little school, run by local parents and teachers.

Rea said the only reason he invited Premier Christy Clark to visit last November was to make sure Ottawa would commit to the Chief Matthews expansion—whether or not he got re-elected.

“If she hadn’t come, they would still be waffling,” he said.

“It worked.”

Jennifer Rice, the local North Coast MLA, said she would be happy to see Chief Matthews grow, and she and the NDP meant no disrespect to Old Massett council.

“I want all the kids to be successful, and to have healthy, safe schools to go to,” she said.

But Rice said it’s still strange that the premier visited Haida Gwaii last fall without calling anyone else—not the Council of the Haida Nation, nor the mayor of Masset—and announced funding that isn’t part of any larger program.

“Where’s the new policy?” she said.

“Because if this is a new policy, how do other band schools participate?”

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