When the head of British Columbia's civil service announced she was stepping aside, Premier Gordon Campbell told reporters in Victoria that Jessica McDonald would "be here for a 90 day transition period" to offer her successor Allan Seckel support. But Public Eye has exclusively learned, during that period, the government paid for her to be trained in Ontario as a corporate director - sending her to attend around seven days worth of courses at a cost of more than $10,000.
That training was part of undisclosed transition agreement for Ms. McDonald, who has since been hired as the executive vice-president of western and international development at HB Global Advisors Corp. - the consulting arm of international law firm Heenan Blaikie LLP. But the government is defending the deal, noting this is the first and only time she's received taxpayer-funded training since joining the premier's office.
Under that agreement, the government offered her access to career counselling and training services including the Directors College, a program run by The Conference Board of Canada and McMaster University's DeGroote School of Business.
That program, which has been taken by other provincial deputy ministers, trains participants to become chartered corporate directors. It includes five, two and a quarter-day courses which take place at the White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa - a luxury hotel located in Niagra-on-the-Lake.
Ms. McDonald took three of those courses at a cost of $4,120 each for a total of $12,360. A government spokesperson stated that was the only training she took advantage of as part of her transition package. And it's only the training she took during the six years she spent with the premier's office.
But New Democrat House Leader Mike Farnworth said he didn't that going-out-the-door package was appropriate - "not when they've been busy cutting back grants to sports groups across B.C, not when there's healthcare cutbacks, not when there's been education cutbacks. Quite frankly, I think it's an unnecessary expenditure."
"I don't think she needed to be sent to this Directors College," he continued. "I think her qualifications would have landed her on her feet quite nicely without that expenditure."