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Minister should resign over Kwantlen payments: NDP

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk - Black Press
Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk
— image credit: Black Press

Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk violated spending rules as a university board member in 2010-12 and he should not be allowed to continue as the cabinet minister responsible for enforcing those rules, NDP leader John Horgan said Wednesday.

Horgan was commenting on the findings of an investigation into the hiring of two senior executives of Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Virk should resign from cabinet or be fired by Premier Christy Clark, Horgan said.

The review found that extra "consulting fees" of $50,000 paid to Kwantlen president Alan Davis and former vice-president Anne Lavack were not reported as part of their compensation, and were paid separately to get around compensation limits when they were being hired.

Horgan said Virk, an RCMP inspector in Langley before running in the 2013 B.C. election, knows he broke the rules.

"He signed off on a contract for $50,000 with no deliverables to that institution as a pre-employment contract, violating the rules that he was sworn to uphold as the person responsible to that institution," Horgan said.

Virk spoke to reporters Tuesday when the report from assistant deputy minister Rob Mingay was released. He called it "a humbling moment" and said that he was not properly informed on the financial reporting rules for hiring university executives at the time. Virk vowed to make sure current directors of public institutions are properly trained.

"In some ways I almost feel a little bit let down that I didn't have the fullest information at my hand, or the fullest of training as a volunteer board member," Virk said.

Finance Minister Mike de Jong ordered the review after the extra payments were raised in the B.C. legislature by NDP advanced education critic David Eby. The results are "troubling," de Jong said when the report was released.

The government's Public Sector Employers' Council (PSEC) set salary ranges for Levack's position at $125,000 to $175,000. When Levack was hired in 2011, she received the maximum salary, plus a $20,000-a-year research allowance and a $50,000 "consulting fee" before starting work that was not reported to PSEC.

In the case of Davis, a Kwantlen official's 2011 email that was copied to Virk inquires about paying the new president an extra $100,000 above PSEC guidelines, from the Kwantlen Polytechnic University Foundation.

In a later email, Virk writes "our advice at present is to hold off as the risk factors are very high."

A $50,000 consulting fee was later given to Davis, in addition to his $225,000 salary and $35,000 to relocate from New York state.

 

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