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.