A post-secondary institution, which receives hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the provincial attorney general's ministry each year, is giving a public safety award to officeholder Wally Oppal. When asked whether the Justice Institute of British Columbia was simply trying to curry favour and future funds, the school's marketing and communications manager Valder Belgrave said that wasn't the case - although he conceded there was "discussion about the optics."
"The decision to give this award to Justice Oppal was made well before he decided to step into provincial politics," explained Mr. Belgrave. And "the fact he has now become a provincial cabinet minister shouldn't take away from the contributions he made while sitting on the bench."
For his part, Attorney General Oppal said he thinks he remembers agreeing to accept the institute award last November, after initially turning it down. "Optics are always a concern about those things," he added, explaining the "award was given for what I did as a judge and a laywer prior to this life."
The attorney general's ministry transferred $1.2 million to the institute between fiscal 2003/04 and 2004. Attorney General Oppal will be receiving the public safety award on October 27. Tickets to the dinner, which is being held at the Rocky Mountaineer Vancouver Station, are $195, with corporate table sponsorships selling for $2,000. All proceeds go towards the institute.
Others receiving the award include the late Lucille Johnston, a philanthropistic and former head of the British Columbia and Yukon Council of St. John Ambulance, and rocker Bryan Adams, who headlined four concerts that raised $266,060 for victims of the 2003 firestorm. A version of this article was originally published in today's edition of 24 hours.