Your humble organ has done much fussing and bothering about the appointment of provincial Liberal supporter Louise Burgart to the electoral boundary commission - which has now decided its executive director doesn't need to come from a non-partisan background. That surreal decision has prompted my colleague Bill Tieleman to consider competing for the job - as noted in his 24 hours's column today. Freelance pundit Paul Willcocks also weighed in last month against Ms. Burgart's appointment to the commision. But still no word of complaint from New Democrats. The following is a complete copy of Mr. Tieleman's op-ed.
Hire non-partisan Tieleman to help draw B.C. electoral riding boundaries!
Public service is my motto.
- Al Capone, American gangster
Great news for Premier Gordon Campbell - I'm ready to go to work for his B.C. Liberal government.
Public service is my calling and I've found the perfect job opening - Executive Director of the Electoral Boundaries Commission!
You might wonder - what does the Electoral Boundaries Commission do and why on earth would the government hire a longtime thorn in its side to run it?
The Commission draws up the geographical boundaries for every riding in the B.C. Legislature. This task is extremely politically sensitive, as changing the boundaries could give one party an unfair advantage in electing MLAs.
Now, I would ordinarily have never thought of applying for this job, as I presumed it would require someone politically non-partisan.
But then I got the word from 24 hours colleague Sean Holman - having a non-partisan background isn't a job requirement! That's what the government official in charge told Holman.
Perhaps it's because B.C. Legislature Speaker Bill Barisoff has already appointed Louise Burgart to be one of the three Electoral Boundaries Commissioners.
Burgart is supposed to represent the general public, so you would think she is not involved with party politics, but you would be oh so wrong.
Burgart's company, Apex Mountain Resort, has donated $2,900 to the Liberals in the past few years, including $1,000 directly to Barisoff's Liberal campaign in 2001.
And Burgart wrote a butt-kissing letter to the Prince George Citizen newspaper praising the Campbell Liberals just a day before the 2005 election.
Neutral? You might just as well appoint former Liberal finance minister Gary Collins.
But if a partisan like Burgart isn't disqualified from being a Commissioner then why should I be ruled out for a job?
Just look at my resume. Communications Director for NDP Premier Glen Clark in 1996. NDP provincial executive member for four years. NDP donor. B.C. Federation of Labour staffer for six years.
Like Burgart, I have impeccable qualifications for the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Plus I have a master's degree in political science, specializing in British Columbia.
Still, some naysayers might worry that as the top Commission staffer, I would gerrymander the ridings' map to favour the NDP.
That's what happened in 1977 when a Commission appointed by the Social Credit government redrew the boundaries of cabinet minister Grace McCarthy's riding to add a long sliver of Vancouver that just happened to vote 80 per cent Socred.
And let's face it - I could make what became known as Gracie's Finger look like a hangnail.
But there's no rule against being partisan. Apparently you just have to be fair - and I promise I will be. Seriously. No kidding.
Now I'm just waiting for the call to start working on those riding boundaries!