Provincial Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong's career as a talk radio host is getting a little help from the government, Public Eye has learned. Yesterday, we told you the labour and citizens' services minister has been co-hosting, for the past month, a hour-long public affairs program on Sher-e-Punjab with station owner Sukh Badh. That program includes discussions on everything from politics to social issues. And now, Parm Bains - a Vancouver-based media relations officer employed by the government's taxpayer-funded public affairs bureau - has confirmed he was involved in getting the show to air.
In an interview yesterday morning, Mr. Bains said Minister de Jong told him he "wanted to do a weekly program. And I said well, basically, I had spoken to the owners. And they said sure. So we set up a meeting where they could discuss it. So that was basically it. They went in and discussed it with them. So that was sort of the end of that and my part of it and my involvement with that." But is he involved in show preparations (such as booking guests)? "No," answered Mr. Bains.
To verify that answer, we checked with a number of people who have made appearances on Minister de Jong's show. Richmond school trustee Sat Gill, said "I don't even know his name" when asked who booked him. Was it Mr. Bains? "It could have been Parm. I know he was there at the station. It could have been somebody else as well. I'm not sure."
But R. Paul Dhillon was sure. Asked the same question, The LINK's editor said he had been booked by the "local Liberal Indo-Canadian media guy." Parm Bains? "Parm Bains, yeah."
In fact, later in the day, public affairs bureau executive director Andy Orr confirmed Minister de Jong "may be using some (government) communications resourcesâ€ to book guests on the show. And why is that an appropriate use of those resources? Responded Mr. Orr: "I don't see that it's particularly different than setting up talk show requests for the media."
But New Democrat MLA Adrian Dix doesn't agree. "I think myself that Mr. de Jong should pull back (from hosting the show). And if he wants to continue to do it as a political person, then he should have people who are hired as political persons help him book. And he shouldn't have people who are hired to serve the taxpayer," said Mr. Dix before drolly quipping, "And, in fairness to him, he may not know that that's the case."
Minister de Jong is not getting paid nor is he paying to host the show - information confirmed by Messrs. Badh and Orr. The station's owner has said he offered the New Democrats a similar gig. But the party's caucus communications director Jim Rutkowski told Public Eye he isn't aware of such an offer. Minister de Jong has not yet returned a call, placed last week and renewed yesterday, seeking comment about his on-air activities.