What's the difference between running a major amusement park and diplomacy? Apparently not much if you're going to be working for the provincial government. Back in September, Annette Antoniak, the chief executive officer of the Pacific National Exhibition, replaced polymath and former B.C. Liberal party president Andrew Wilkinson at the helm of the province's intergovernmental relations secretariat. That's the agency responsible for charting out British Columbia's relationship with Ottawa. In the past, the Liberals have said improving that relationship is one of their top priorities.
In an interview, the premier's deputy minister Ken Dobell confirmed there was no competitive process to determine who would got Mr. Wilkinson's job and the $150,000 paycheque that went along with it. Instead, Ms. Antoniak was hired following an interview with himself and Premier Gordon Campbell.
When asked whether Ms. Antoniak had any previous intergovernmental relations experience, Mr. Dobell told Public Eye, "She had some general background in terms of dealing with governments," as the director of protocol and communications at Canada Place's B.C. Pavilion and vice-president of public affairs and administration at the Vancouver Trade and Convention Centre. "But did she have a specific background in IGR that would lead you to look to her? No."
So why was Ms. Antoniak hired? Because of her competence and "personal skill set," according to Mr. Dobell. "She's run a real-world organization, albeit it was a governmental organization - the PNE. It was fairly on-the-ground and down-to-earth."
Ms. Antoniak, who has since moved on to head the provincial government's Olympic Games Secretariat, previously worked with Mr. Dobell when he was Vancouver's city manager and Premier Campbell was the mayor. Athana Mentzelopoulos, a former senior communications advisor to federal cabinet minister David, is now running intergovernmental relations. She too was hired without a competitive process.