The work and the rule

As our astute readers know, constituency assistants are forbidden from doing partisan work. But does that stop them from collecting opposition research materials? Last October, senior provincial New Democrat research instructor Paula Gunn sent an email to assistants clarifying caucus's new Community Network project - which would see those aides record the names of key activists, supporters, government appointees and firms with provincial business in their ridings.

Asked whether such activities cross the partisan line, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Bill Barisoff said the project - which was brought to his attention by Public Eye - is "certainly, something that probably falls in that grey area. I've talked to both caucus chairs about it" this past Tuesday. "I didn't just talk to one. I talked to both. And passed on to them both what was happening and just advised them they were sliding into this grey area."

"And they should be cognisent of the fact that - when you slide into a grey area - it's pretty easy to slip over and cause some problems for all concerned. So they've both taken it back. Both caucus chairs are dealing with it. And if slides beyond the area of being grey, then certainly they'll hear from the speaker.” The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned email and the community network project template.

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From: Gunn, Paula Sent: Wed 10/18/2006 11:20 AM
Subject: Confusion over Community Networks project/document

Hello everyone,

I understand that there is considerable confusion among CAs over the Community Networks project, and that many of you have not got the Community Networks template document. I hope this email will clear up that confusion.

THE DOCUMENT

Leonard sent out an email yesterday to all of you using the name we had previously been using for this project - it is about this Community Networks form and project.

I am attaching the document again (above).

This is the form that I sent out for recording useful info on your constituency, and also for use when I send out the weekly/bimonthly Orders in Council appointments

MY EMAILS WITH Orders in Council/OICs

My emails of the OICs go the MLAs' public address, cc'd to their private address.

NOTE - I can send OIC emails to this CA distribution list INSTEAD of the MLAs Public one, if that is preferable - please let me know.

My first email went out September 22nd. There was then a delay while we worked out process issues, and then I sent out email with 2 batches of OICs last week, one on October 12, and then on Oct. 13th.

THE PROCESS

The idea is that this template document be used to record information pertaining to your constituency.
OICs come out every couple of weeks - I will be sending them (as above) by email.

Any info from the OICs (local names of people getting appointments to government boards, ministries etc.) should be added to the form. Your MLA or you should submit the information gathered to me, by email Please title the email "Community Networks Info" so that I know what it is I apologize for the confusion. If you have questions about this project, please ask your MLA - or you can phone me. If your MLA is unclear on this project, they should speak to Sue or Leonard.

Paula

Paula Gunn
Senior Research Officer
Caucus Research
New Democrat Official Opposition

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Community Network
DATE

Constituency Association Executive
Name Position Other Information

Key Activists
Name Position Other Information

Key Supporters (Individual & Business)
Name Position Other Information

Local OIC Appointees
Name Position Other Information

Local Firms with Government Business
Name Principals Other Information

2 Comments

These kinds of lists of key local contacts who are in some sense politcally connected are often collected by regular public servants working in the line departments of government, or in public agencies such as universities or health authorities.

It seems to me a bit strange that people hired to directly assist MLAs would be under tighter restrictions that public servants working in, say, the BC Ministry of Employment and Income Assistance, or the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. All are working at the taxpayer's expense.

I suppose my view of the Speaker's ability to distinguish a slide into the grey area or a slip over the side of partisanship is informmed by his own demonstrated sense of what is permissible and what is not when it comes to appointing a partisan to the non-partisan electoral boundaries comission.

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