Martyn Brown has ample opportunity to demonstrate his interest in more government transparency


I see that Gordon Campbell's former chief of staff, Martyn Brown, has somehow reinvented himself as a political commentator.

He even wrote an article in the Vancouver Sun that recommended, among other things, greater transparency in the reporting of government advertising.

It's so easy for him to make these pious pronouncements now that he's a free agent.

But I remember when Brown was working in the Campbell government. I remember trying to find out where government advertising dollars went.

This information should have been publicly reported under the Financial Information Act, which requires disclosure of payments to suppliers of goods and services.

But the Campbell government—with Brown as the premier's chief of staff—didn't want to do that.

I was told that it would cost something like $6,000 to find out how much public money went to the Campbell-loving Canwest chain of newspapers and broadcast outlets.

When I narrowed my request, I was told that I would have to pay the same fee.

Around the same time, I also discovered that the Campbell government—with Brown as the premier's chief of staff—had devised a Machiavellian technique for tracking freedom-of-information requests.

My requests on a certain issue were deemed "highly sensitive". Requests identified in this way took more time to process, according to a U.S. freedom-of-information researcher who studied the issue.

Meanwhile, publishers of major newspapers—including David Black, the Globe's Phillip Crawley, and Dennis Skulsky—paid private visits to Campbell's office when Brown was the premier's chief of staff.

I've often wondered if these publishers ever privately lobbied the premier for government advertising during these one-on-one meetings. I don't recall any of them registering under the provincial lobbyist legislation.

It's heart-warming to see that Brown has taken a keen interest in transparency recently in his newspaper writing. Perhaps he can pen a column about what was said during these meetings between the publishers and his former boss.

In the meantime, B.C.'s auditor general, John Doyle, might want to look into why the Campbell government never fully accounted for its advertising expenditures, notwithstanding its obligations under the Financial Information Act.

Given Brown's love of transparency regarding government advertising, perhaps he could volunteer some information about what exactly was said at that time.

However, if he remains silent on this issue, readers can be forgiven for concluding that Brown's newfound interest in transparency only applies to a future NDP government—and not to the B.C. Liberal government he so willingly served for in the past.

Comments (6) Add New Comment
Mark Fornataro
Charlie-Re: 'I was told that it would cost something like $6,000 to find out how much public money went to the Campbell-loving Canwest chain of newspapers and broadcast outlets.' If you are still interested in this Charlie, maybe through a campaign Straight readers can donate to this cause. I will donate $100 toward this goal if you are still interested.
Rating: 0
Hi Charlie - like you, I have been skeptical of Martyn Brown's political deathbed conversion to transparency and accountability - and his willingness to publicly lecture Premier Christy Clark on it. But that said, I welcome his continuing comments on this subject and others, such as decrying the extreme partisanship that he epitomized when Gordon Campbell's Chief of Staff and the demonization of the NDP that was in evidence at the Whistler BC Liberal convention.

Even if Martyn squandered the opportunity to make change when he had enormous power and influence, it is still worthwhile to hear now. I too was on a "red flag" list for FOI requests to government and would also like to hear more about a variety of topics that Martyn could shed light on.

Hopefully his future articles won't replicate his testimony as one of only two witnesses at the Basi-Virk/BC Rail trial: "I don't remember. I can't recall. It was a long time ago."

cheers - Bill Tieleman -
Bill Tieleman
Rating: +1
I see that Charlie Smith has invented himself as a political commentator. Everyone knows that he is a mouthpiece for the Not Democratic Party (Socialist).
Rating: +1
Hans Goldberg
A troll and his name is bowser
Rating: -2
Just Wondering
Like the rest od the Liberals, trust is nowhere to be found.
Rating: +1
p lg
happy new year! just getting around to reading this by Charlie.

I would like to know from Martyn Brown how the $100 million from the feds for the 2003 forest fire devastation was distributed.

Like others I was eventually denied access to this information by a rep from Brown's Public Affairs Bureau saying that no list of recipients exists of how this money was distributed. This was after I was told by a government employee in the Emergency Planning Dept said there was.

Rating: +5
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