Has budget for Clark’s office
gone up or down?

Michael Smyth, Vancouver Province, Sept. 15, 2011


No, that’s not a cheque, it’s a B.C. Liberal party membership receipt.
But Pamela Martin is cashing some government cheques now as
Premier Christy Clark’s $130,000-a-year “director of outreach.”
Photo: Jason Payne, PNG files.


How many people does Premier Christy Clark have working in her office? Has the budget for Clark’s office gone up or down?

And what does Pamela Martin really do anyway? You might as well ask how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

In the wild and wacky world of B.C. politics, even the simplest questions trigger the most complicated answers — and a political firestorm, like the one that erupted Wednesday.

Let’s start with that perplexing number of staff in Clark’s office. The opposition NDP says she has 15 personal staff — up from just 12 when Gordon Campbell was premier.

The New Democrats say that’s caused a 16-per-cent total salary jump in Clark’s office budget.

“It’s a terrible example to set in a supposed time of restraint,” said NDP MLA Carole James. “She’s telling everyone else to tighten their belts and do more with less, and at the same time saying, ‘I don’t count — I can increase the size of my staff.’”

The government admits Clark’s office staff has expanded, but only by one person, not by three.

The government doesn’t count Clark’s “events and projects coordinator” because she’s paid by another department, for some reason. They also don’t count former forestry executive Jim Shepard, her “senior policy adviser,” because he works on a volunteer basis.

And besides, the Liberals say, NDP Leader Adrian Dix hired tonnes of political hacks when he was chief of staff to then-premier Glen Clark in the 1990s.

“We’ll give credit where credit is due: Adrian Dix did reduce the staff in his office by one,” the Liberals said in a cheeky news release, referring to Dix’s 1999 firing in the aftermath of the Clark casinogate scandal.

Ancient history, counters James. “Christy Clark is increasing her office staff right now,” she said, including a newly hired assistant for Pamela Martin, the former CTV news anchor who is now Clark’s $130,000-a-year “director of outreach.”

The government just released Martin’s correspondence and day-timer after a freedom of information request from Victoria Times Colonist reporter Rob Shaw.

It makes for skimpy reading. Martin has so far spent most of her time in staff meetings, accompanied Clark on three out-of-town trips, met with four community groups and sent nine emails to citizens.

“It’s very thin,” said James, though Liberal MLA John Les defended Martin, saying she is a “very capable person” delivering “good value for money.”

I asked for an interview with Martin, whose official job description includes “removing communications barriers” with the public, but was told she doesn’t talk to the media. Must be that “restraint” thing.

Go to News and Comment page