The Trouble with Mike de Jong
in the game of politics
Released by Dermod Travis,
cabinet ministers had theme songs, Finance minister Mike de Jong's
would likely be Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, because when
there's a misstep in government it's a safe bet he'll be troubled by
In 2010, as Solicitor
General, Mr. de Jong was troubled over links between organized crime
and casinos in the province, stating: "If some of these early
reports are true, yes, it's troubling." In 2011, as health minister,
Mr. de Jong was – as he put it – a “little troubled” over an
emergency landing of a medevac helicopter in Kamloop's Pioneer Park.
In 2013, as finance minister, Mr. de Jong was “troubled” to learn
about cost overruns on various projects at B.C. Hydro.
This June, an audit that he had ordered of executive compensation
disclosure at Kwantlen Polytechnic University was released. The
findings pointed the finger directly at one of his cabinet
colleagues – Advanced Education minister Amrik Virk – for
unacceptable practices when Virk was on Kwantlen's board of
Mr. de Jong's response? Troubling: “in the sense that we have
guidelines that relate to both the amounts that are allowed to be
paid in those circumstances and guidelines that relate to how those
amounts must be disclosed. Those requirements weren't met and
that's not satisfactory.”
And last week, Mr. de Jong found himself troubled yet again over an
audit on the circumstances behind the resignation of former BC
Lottery Corporation CEO Michael Graydon. The findings were
“troubling to the extent that they reveal a very senior official
conducted himself …in a manner that was both inconsistent and fell
short of the standards that one would expect.”
Since no actual guidelines existed, there wasn't much the government
could do about it, but the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch
would look at it all the same.
However, the fact that a Crown corporation with annual revenue of
more than $1.6 billion didn't have guidelines in the first place is
more than troubling, it's bordering on amateur hour.
Particularly, since this isn't the first time that the BCLC has
found itself with a mess on its hands over the post-employment
activities of some of its executive team. Nor is it the second time.
Graydon makes three.
In 2007, the BCLC board fired then CEO Vic Poleschuk one day after
an internal poll showed that public trust in the corporation had
taken a nose dive after B.C.'s ombudsman warned of possible fraud by
some lottery retailers. Another poll, one month after the firing,
showed little change in public sentiment.
The firing cost the Crown corporation more than $603,000 in
severance, but Poleschuk wasn't idle for long. Soon, he was a paid
consultant to the Great Canadian Gaming Corporation and by 2010 its
senior vice-president of operations.
T. Richard Turner was BCLC chairperson from 2001 to 2005, after
which he joined the Canadian arm of Paragon Gaming's board of
directors. As Thomas R. Turner, he has also been a registered
lobbyist for Edgewater Casino, a Paragon operation.
To this day, Turner is still fighting an order from the Information
and Privacy Commissioner to release emails between himself and BCLC
CEO Vic Poleschuk from 2005 to 2007. Those emails may contain
information regarding a plan to build a casino next to B.C. Place
stadium in Vancouver and are part of an access to information
request filed by journalist Sean Holman in 2010.
And now – after Michael Graydon's departure for the more comfy
surroundings of Paragon Gaming – British Columbians are being asked
to buy lock, stock and barrel the idea that the BCLC board had never
once imagined that senior staff might one day be tempted by an
employment offer from a private company operating in the same
“Wow, we never thought of that” just doesn't fly.
Mike de Jong, troubled as he is by these events, hopes that British
Columbians will take comfort in the fact that former B.C. Attorney
General Bud Smith – now chair of the BCLC – will develop “an action
plan to bolster the policies and procedures related to employee
exit, mobile devices, and will include steps to ensure employees
have a clear understanding of their
That's nice. After three strikes it's about time.
Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.
Copyright (c) 2009-2014 The Valley Voice