Money from two major unions is paying the lion's share of provincial New Democrat president Moe Sihota's controversial stipend, Public Eye has exclusively learned. The party confirmed it was paying Mr. Sihota using a "generous, earmarked gift from the labour movement" late last month. But it's refused to answer some specific questions about the arrangement - including which members of the movement put money in that pot. Sources within the New Democrats have said some MLAs are upset about being kept in the dark about the deal for almost a year, while others are concerned about how it was structured. Party officials - including Mr. Sihota - tried to allay some of those concerns during a closed door meeting of the New Democrats' governing council this past Sunday. Delegates were told the stipend is being funded, in part, using two $30,000 donations from the Canadian Union of Public Employees British Columbia and the United Steelworkers.
CUPE BC president Barry O'Neil confirmed the contribution in an interview with Public Eye stating, "I'm glad they decided to use it where they use it. And certainly I feel good about that."
"If you want someone to do full-time work for the party, you need to make sure they're at least compensated on it. I don't think there can be any arguments we're talking about a million-dollar golden handshake. This is a pretty minimal compensation package."
"It didn't seem overly offensive to me. I thought it was the right thing we should do. The problem is, of course, is whenever you hook a name like Moe Sihota to that it's a little different than if you're dealing with Joe Smith getting compensation."
United Steelworkers Division Three director Steve Hunt didn't respond to a request for comment placed Monday. British Columbia Federation of Labour president Jim Sinclair came forward in October to say his group donated $4,000 toward Mr. Sihota's stipend.