Education Minister Peter Fassbender questioned on “duplicative” Vancouver auditor appointment

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      It’s either the B.C. education minister or the chair of the Vancouver school board who’s not telling the truth.

      The matter revolves around last month’s appointment by Education Minister Peter Fassbender of a special advisor to review the budget of the school district.

      Fassbender’s announcement on March 12 caught Vancouver school board chair Christopher Richardson by surprise.

      On that same Thursday, Richardson issued a statement indicating that board had already signed a contract with accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to do essentially what the provincially appointed advisor will do.

      According to Richardson, the Ministry of Education was notified of this arrangement earlier in March.

      But Fassbender claims the opposite.

      “Neither I nor the ministry team were aware prior to our announcement of the special adviser that Vancouver had made an in-camera decision, which was in camera and happened the Tuesday before the Thursday that I made the announcement,” said the B.C. Liberal MLA from Surrey-Fleetwood, according to Hansard.

      Fassbender was speaking on the floor of the legislature Monday (April 13) during estimates of his ministry’s budget.

      Speaking opposite and probing Fassbender was Rob Fleming, B.C. NDP MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake and education critic.

      “Why would the ministry come in, at the cost to taxpayers of $180,000, and impose another auditor to do what looks to be duplicative and not welcomed work being imposed on the Vancouver school board?” Fleming asked.

      “Why would he do that if he knew that Vancouver already had a blue chip audit firm working for it to identify savings?” the Opposition MLA continued.

      But Fassbender held his ground.

      “Absolutely, I did not know that until after the fact,” the education minister maintained.

      Fassbender also said that upon learning of the Vancouver school board’s contract with PricewaterhouseCoopers, he offered to “pay any cancellation charges that they may have incurred or would incur in cancelling the review that they had done”.

      “I did that for a very specific reason. They are not the same review,” Fassbender also said.

      For Fleming, what’s happening between the ministry and the Vancouver school board is utter “absurdity”.

      “Instead of agreeing and cooperating on some kind of efficiency expertise or audit, they each appoint their own that reports to themselves, and not the other party directly,” Fleming said.

      According to Fleming, “I would never recommend this kind of approach. It would never work for, say, a mediation or arbitration process. Both parties have to have confidence in an independent individual.”

      In the minutes, Fassbender indicated his wish for the ministry and the Vancouver school board to have a better relationship.

      After all, the board has a new set of trustees elected in November last year. It’s Richardson’s first term as trustee.

      If this issue of who knew what and when regarding the appointment of a special advisor is any indication, Fassbender and Richardson have a lot of things to work on.



      Sasha W

      Apr 14, 2015 at 6:31pm

      PWC audits the VSB every year. The idea that Factbender didn't know that is ludicrous, and shows how willing our Ed Minister is to lie when it might save him face.

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      Roger T.

      Apr 14, 2015 at 7:26pm

      Was he told or was he not told?

      Simply solved. Publish copies of the SD 39's correspondence with the ministry.

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      Two more years

      Apr 14, 2015 at 7:46pm

      Fassbender chose to appoint an auditor, turn it into a press release and photo op, without the courtesy of a phone call to the VSB. If he'd conducted himself appropriately and in good faith, he would have found out the VSB were doing their job and had already appointed an auditor. It wasn't the VSB's responsibility to notify Fassbender but it sure was his to notify the VSB. This guy is totally incompetent... Just like the premier wants her ministers to be.

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      Jon Lane

      Apr 14, 2015 at 7:55pm

      Who has Fassbender appointed? A friend/campaign contributer I bet!

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      M. Cameron

      Apr 14, 2015 at 8:42pm

      Oh, but we DO know why Fassbender would do this. The auditor hired by the school board is there to advise them. The auditor hired by the government is potentially there to DICTATE to the the school board (especially under pending legislation). It is absolutely frightening that an auditor has the power under the ministry to make binding "suggestions" for how a school budget is allocated when that auditor (an accountant, really) has no background in Education (i.e. what programs are useful), Law (i.e. what expenses are legally required), or is in any way accountable to the local population (i.e. democratically representative). Ugh.

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      Just sayin'

      Apr 15, 2015 at 8:48am

      Maybe the VSB should keep their mouths shut and do their job instead of always looking for the nearest microphone. Let me guess they will have a presser in the next week saying they are broke, but closing any schools running far under capacity is a non-starter. They have brought this on themselves.

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      Apr 15, 2015 at 6:01pm

      Just sayin': The VSB is doing its job – a job made much harder by the meddling of Fassbender et al. They have brought nothing on themselves. They've simply been convenient targets for a government hell-bent on undermining public education for ideological reasons.

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      Apr 15, 2015 at 7:12pm

      Tough call for the sheep: support an evil Liberal or an evil NPAer.

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      Apr 15, 2015 at 7:55pm

      Can he be recalled as well? That might be a way to get his attention.

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      Apr 15, 2015 at 8:47pm

      What is this photo op? Fassbender in a classroom? Must be the first time since the 1950's or 60's.
      This entire government has proven themselves to be totally incompetent. Talk about a balanced budget? Forget the 65 million debt! Talk about export of oil, gas, coal, name it. Russia offered to take care of China's oil and gas needs over a year ago. Talk about job creation? Ignore the fact that thousands and thousands have lost their jobs in Fort McMurray.

      I recently met a young man whose uncle is a former Premier of BC. He shared with me the story of how he went to a dinner with the Current Premier and all she could talk about was herself and her son. He was not impressed!

      Why is this government not paying attention to the export of coal? Westshore Terminals has contracts to 2021 to export out of Delta. Could it be because Big Jimmy's company owns 35% of Westshore so no one want to offend this oh-so-close-associate?
      (Read Grisham's latest book for the facts about the coal industry).

      BTW, who is monitoring the count for the Transportation Referendum? There have been some very strange results with Elections BC in recent years?

      Keep smiling. It makes others wonder what you are up to.

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