|Blackcomb Aviation corporate jet at YVR|
It’s important for politicians to get out and meet the people and know the land they govern. But, wondered NDP house leader John Horgan, is this just Premier Photo-Op on her permanent campaign?
“Ms. Clark has been campaigning since she started her run for the Liberal leadership, and she’s continued to campaign for the last year and a half. What we’d prefer to see is good government. Most citizens would prefer to see good government. Most citizens would rather have their premier focusing on the systemic challenges with our fiscal situation, addressing child poverty, addressing problems in communities right across B.C., that’s not necessarily best done on charter flights in and out to raise funds or to raise political awareness. What we need is a government that will roll up its sleeves and address the challenges of the day and that does not require charter jets.”
Clark has flown 29,000 kilometres around B.C., as far north as Yellowknife and as far east as Regina on the taxpayer dime since the fourth day of her Premiership. I learned this through a series of Freedom of Information requests.
You won’t find information about Clark’s charter flights in the Public Accounts. But you’ll find all the relevant documents below.
Clark often travels with a communications aide and another staffer. Sometimes a minister or deputy minister. Almost always a bodyguard is aboard. She even brought a lobbyist aboard a Dec. 1, 2011 flight to Kitimat that turned back to Vancouver because of nasty weather.
Blackcomb Aviation is owned by David McLean, the CN chair who was a well-known friend of ex-Premier Gordon Campbell. BC Rail was sold to CN in 2003 in a controversial deal that has yet to be fully explained to the citizens of B.C. (Learn all about it on this Investigators documentary.)
McLean has donated more than $250,000 to the Liberals since 2005. Blackcomb Aviation gave Clark $23,000 worth of flights during the 2011 leadership campaign.
Cabinet members are allowed to take charter flights if they’re on government business, their destination is not adequately served by scheduled service and/or if their schedule dictates they cannot wait for a scheduled flight.
Clark apparently tested the limits of what government business is. On May 26, 2011, she went on a one-day trip to a town hall meeting in Cranbrook. This was during her honeymoon spring and she was planning for a fall election, which was eventually scuttled. Kootenay-Columbia Conservative Member of Parliament David Wilks attended the town hall meeting. So did Doug Clovechok, who was hoping to run for the Liberals in that election.
He was finally, officially nominated on July 31 at a party meeting in Golden. That was the middle day of Clark’s three-day area tour. She was there and posed for photos with Clovechok. Blackcomb’s bill was $7,741.99.
Clark made four trips in three weeks for $38,600 on Blackcomb Aviation during July 2012, including a one-day, $15,470.07 trip on July 19 to Regina and Edmonton. She met Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall during the first stop and Alison Redford, the Alberta premier, on the second. The meeting with Redford was called the “Secret Summit,” because Clark was whisked in and out of the Alberta Legislature with no notice or fanfare. Along for the ride were deputy minister Neil Sweeney, aide Gabe Garfinkel and the bodyguard.
Such is life aboard charter jets, which use a private terminal on the south side of Vancouver International Airport.
News and views on Vancouver 2010 (and beyond) from Bob Mackin.