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B.C. Premier apologizes to fired LNG advocate after falsely claiming he did little work

Premier John Horgan leaves Government House after being sworn-in as Premier in Victoria, B.C., on July 18, 2017.

Globe and Mail Update

B.C. Premier John Horgan has apologized to a former provincial Liberal leader for falsely claiming he completed little written work in his role as the province's liquefied natural gas advocate, but Gordon Wilson says he is still mulling a lawsuit over the damage to his reputation.

Last week, the NDP fired Mr. Wilson, who had been appointed by former premier Christy Clark to promote the province's LNG industry. At the time, Jobs Minister Bruce Ralston and then Mr. Horgan claimed Mr. Wilson did not produce any reports related to his work in four years in the post. But documents posted to a government website, produced as a result of an Access to Information request made by the NDP when it was in opposition, show a variety of papers written by Mr. Wilson during his tenure, for which he was paid $550,000.

"I offer an apology to Mr. Wilson, and I'm hopeful that we can now move on and get on with the programs that will help people," Mr. Horgan said Tuesday during an unrelated government announcement.

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Only last week, Mr. Horgan summed up Mr. Wilson's record on the job as "no reports, no briefings, no memoranda."

Although the new NDP government has been clearing out high-profile BC Liberal appointees, it only commented on Mr. Wilson's performance. Brad Bennett learned he was out as the chair of the BC Hydro board from a text someone sent him flagging a media release.

"I have been around politics my whole life. None of this was unexpected, but there is a classy way to do things. They chose the unclassy path," Mr. Bennett said last month.

Among those removed with the change in government have been the president and chief executive officer of BC Hydro. Last month, a government spokesperson said 133 people had been fired at a cost of $11.3-million in severance.

Mr. Wilson was not allowed severance on his exit on the terms of his employment.

On Tuesday, the Premier also said he fully supports Mr. Ralston.

"I've known Bruce Ralston for many, many years. He is a man of the highest of integrity. If he believes that he misspoke, I support that."

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Mr. Ralston's office said he would not be available to the media. However, the Jobs Minister earlier told The Province he should have had Mr. Wilson's written material before making comments about him. "I didn't have this information and I regret that," Mr. Ralston said.

But Mr. Wilson said he is being urged by his lawyer to sue the government, noting a response to a question in a media scrum does not constitute a formal and proper apology.

Mr. Wilson said his lawyer is seeking a written apology, and a complete documentation of the review that led Mr. Ralston to the conclusion that nothing had been done.

"If I let this go, it sets a precedent that it could happen to anybody else who is working in government whether they are order-in-council appointment or otherwise," Mr. Wilson said.

The former LNG advocate said he was mystified about why he was singled out by the new NDP government among those fired.

"It's quite disturbing," he said. "They have impugned my reputation as somebody who works with government and with industry in an industry I firmly believed I would have a role in as the energy sector evolves."

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In a Facebook post, former jobs minister Shirley Bond wrote that Mr. Wilson did not deserve the treatment he had received from the NDP.

"He reported to me regularly and we had an outline of expectations and accountabilities. To suggest there were no reports, no documents is simply untrue," she wrote.

Video: Christy Clark says she has no plans to return to politics (The Canadian Press)
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About the Author
B.C. reporter

Ian Bailey is a Vancouver-based reporter for The Globe and Mail.  He covers politics and general news. Prior to arriving at The Globe and Mail, he reported from Toronto and St. John’s for The Canadian Press.  He has also covered British Columbia for CP, The National Post and The Province. More

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