Changing traditions

Bruce Ralston has confirmed he never received a salary when he was president of the provincial New Democrats. By comparison, the party is paying the present holder of that office Moe Sihota a $75,600 stipend using a "generous, earmarked gift from the labour movement." In October, Mr. Sihota told party officials "labour has traditionally made a donation to provide a stipend for the president because this is a full-time job. And that tradition has continued in this instance." But Mr. Ralston's admission - which was made on Voice of BC last week - means Public Eye can now confirm five of the past six party presidents didn't receive a stipend. Only Mr. Sihota's immediate predecessor Sav Dhaliwal has refused to say whether he was being paid. The following is a complete transcript of the interview during which Mr. Ralston made that admission. In it, The Vancouver Sun's Vaughn Palmer also demonstrates just how uncomfortable questions about this matter can make two opposition politicians. You can view the video of that exchange here (starts at the 15:27 mark).

Sean Holman Gentlemen, if the president of the provincial Liberal party was being paid using a generous, earmarked gift from the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, for example, you would have kittens. So why is it not a problem that the president of the provincial New Democrats is being paid using a generous, earmarked gift from the labour movement?

Mr. Palmer Which one of you wishes to rush forward and answer that?

Mr. Ralston Well, I mean I was party president...

Mr. Palmer There you go!

Mr. Ralston ...back a while ago.

Mr. Palmer Did you get a paid salary?

Mr. Ralston I wasn't paid, no. But people might have thought that was value for money.

Mike Farnworth Absolutely, I agree with that!

Mr. Palmer Anyway, so Sihota is being paid something like $75,000 by the trade union movement.

Mr. Ralston That's a decision that the party made and times have changed and I don't see a problem with paying the president. It's a demanding job and he's certainly putting a lot of time in and that's a decision that the executive has made.

Mr. Palmer When did you discover that this was the case? Did you rely on Sean Holman to break the news to you or was the party informed?

Mr. Farnworth I remember at a caucus meeting. I'm not sure of the exact time. It may have been when it broke and became an issue. But it certainly wasn't...

Mr. Palmer Were you ticked off that you weren't told about it ahead of time?

Mr. Farnworth I think all of us would liked to have have known. But, at the same time, we have a party that makes decisions. We have an executive and table officers that make decisions. And I'm glad there are people who do that - that are part and process of making those decisions. At the end of the day, it's an internal party matter. It was dealt with at provincial council...

Mr. Palmer Oh, come on. Your party has been busy trying to tell everybody it's been taking some distance from the labour movement and it turns out the president is being paid by them.

Mr. Farnworth Labour has been part of our party since its inception. And the fact they made available some money to assist to pay the president I don't think comes as a surprise to...

Mr. Palmer It came as a surprise to you...

Mr. Farnworth a lot of people. No, look, it's a decision that's taken by the party and that's an internal decision. And I know Sean Holman seems to...

Mr. Palmer Well, here's somebody else who thinks its interesting. And we were just talking about him so let's get him in here. Phil Hochstein. Here he is...

Mr. Hochstein The recent revelation that Moe Sihota was being secretly paid by the trade union movement for his volunteer position as NDP party president raises two questions: first, how does that square with the NDP's claim that it's severing its ties with the trade union movement and moving to the centre; and second, given that he who pays the piper calls the tune, to whom is Moe Sihota accountable - his labour bosses or the NDP party?

Mr. Farnworth Well, I mean you know Phil Hochstein has a point of view and we just disagree with that. We could pave the streets with gold and Phil Hochstein would still complain. He'd say it's 18 karat not 24.

Mr. Palmer He's in a fight this week, though, with Bill Vander Zalm over recall right? Vander Zalm wants his organization boycotted. Alright, this is not going anywhere isn't it? You guys would just sooner not talk about this. What's the answer to who does Moe answer to.

Mr. Farnworth Moe answers to provincial council. He answers - we've just had a professional council meeting where he's answering questions to all the delegates.

Mr. Palmer But he won't talk about it to the public. At a certain point, shouldn't you talk to the public about it?

Mr. Ralston I think the responsibility rests with the party executive. That's where it's been raised. It's been raised at the provincial council. I know others who are not particularly...I mean Phil would hardly classify himself as a supporter of the NDP...

Mr. Palmer Oh, I would say that's true.

Mr. Ralston ...who are making mischief with it. But, frankly, I think it is best dealt with internally and that's where it's going to stay.

Mr. Palmer We'll take a brief break on Voice of BC with these incredibly forthcoming New Democrats. Stay with us...

1 Comment

Moe always has been real bad news for the NDP.

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