Who knew what when?

Attorney General Wally Oppal has told Public Eye he "misstated" himself in an interview with The Vancouver Sun's Tara Carman. At issue: last week, Attorney General Oppal reportedly told the broadsheet the Legal Services Society "has not requested additional funding from the province." This, after the society announced it would be laying off 38 Lower Mainland employees because of an expected decline in non-government revenue.

But, in an email sent to staff on January 15 and obtained exclusively by Public Eye, society executive director Mark Benton stated, "I want you all to know that LSS has kept the Ministry of Attorney General informed of the cost pressures at LSS since they first became apparent in May 2008."

In fact, according to that email, society board chair Mayland McKinn, "spoke personally with the AG about this topic in October."

Asked about the matter, Attorney General Oppal explained, "I misstated the facts." Speaking with Public Eye, the attorney general clarified that, during his interview with The Vancouver Sun, he was speaking specifically about whether the society had asked the government to replace an expected $2 million in lost funding from the Notary Foundation.

"It made it sound like they hadn't approached us for more funding. They have, throughout the year, approached us for more funding," he conceded.

Attorney General Oppal was also paraphrased by The Vancouver Sun as saying it "would be premature to comment on whether the province will increase funding to the Legal Services Society in light of the cuts."

But, according to Mr. Benton, "AG officials attempted to secure funds for the LSS over the summer but the message from all levels of the ministry has been that there would be no additional funding from the province..."

As a result, the executive director wrote, "I was puzzled by the AG's message but have been advised by his office this morning that they know that the Attorney General and his officials have given clear and consistent messages to LSS that no additional funding will be available from government."

"I think I inadvertently caused that" puzzlement, conceded Attorney General Oppal - who explained he was again specifically referring to the Notary Foundation's expected funding cut.

"I would like to say there will be (more funding). But I can't say that at this stage, at least. We're having difficulties throughout government because of the decrease in revenues."

The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned email.

***

From: Mark Benton
Sent: January 15, 2009 1:55 PM

All

In an article about our staff and service changes in this morning's Vancouver Sun, Attorney General Wally Oppal is quoted as saying "[I]t would be premature to comment on whether the province will increase funding to the Legal Services Society in light of the cuts. The society has not requested additional funding from the province."

I want you all to know that LSS has kept the Ministry of Attorney General informed of the cost pressures at LSS since they first became apparent in May of 2008.

We have met routinely with ministry staff to update the MAG on these budget pressures and to ensure they were aware of the cuts we would need to make if funding was not increased.

The board has also met with the AG and the board chair, Mayland McKimm, spoke personally with the AG about this topic in October.

AG officials attempted to secure funds for LSS over the summer but the message from all levels of the ministry has been that there would be no additional funding from the province for LSS apart from the money to cover the cost of the large criminal cases and for previously negotiated labour contracts.

I was puzzled by the AG's message but have been advised by his office this morning that they know that the Attorney General and his officials have given clear and consistent messages to LSS that no additional funding will be available from government.

I was further advised this morning by ministry staff that the attorney general's comment was specifically in answer to whether the government had been asked to replace the funding lost as a result of declining revenues from the Notary Foundation.

It is true that we have not asked that specific question. Instead we sought a global level of funding needed to sustain the society on at its current service levels. Staff and service cuts are being made because we have not secured that level of funding.

Mark

Leave a comment

Copyright © 2004 - Public Eye Mediaworks. Reproductions of any portion of this Website are permitted only with the expressed permission of Public Eye Mediaworks.
Canadian Web Hosting graciously provided by dotcanuck Web Services. Layout and graphics courtesy of Art Department Design.