"I can't believe this. I can perhaps see politicians going close to the wire from time to time. But they've stepped over it so far that it's unbelievable" - that's how former premier Bill Vander Zalm is reacting to the appointment of Liberal supporter Louise Burgart to the supposedly non-partisan electoral boundaries commission. Said Mr. Vander Zalm, in an interview to be published in tomorrow's edition of 24 hours, "This appears to me to be not only a conflict but rather dumb because it's so obvious. And it's rather dangerous because - even if this person does a perfect job - there's always the perception it might not have been."
Mr. Vander Zalm, whose administration was responsible for putting in place the legislation that established the electoral boundaries commission, told Public Eye the Speaker of the Legislative Bill Barisoff's partisan appointment sets "a very dangerous precedent. Because the next time it's done - it may not be the Liberals, it could be the NDP - but they could go back to this one and say, "It was okay then. See! Everyone agreed."
The former premier added, "If I was the speaker, I would probably rescind the appointment. But it would probably be prudent on the part of the appointee to say, "I'm stepping aside. I meant no wrong. I meant to do a good job. But I can see that this certainly doesn't look good."
Earlier this week, the executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association - Murray Mollard - also slammed Ms. Burgart's appointment.