Where's Jordan Bateman?
That's a question some taxpayers might want to ask in the wake of the Air Christy scandal.
Bateman, the loquacious B.C. director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, has not spoken out about a growing controversy over Premier Christy Clark's use of private planes to fly to Kelowna.
Last week, investigative journalist Bob Mackin revealed that over the past five years, Clark spent more than $500,000 chartering aircraft for herself, her staff, and her RCMP bodyguard.
Mackin reported on the Tyee website that more than $65,000 was spent on round trips between Vancouver and Kelowna since July 2013 when Clark became MLA for West Kelowna. (The Kelowna area is also home to the Bennett family, with whom the premier has a political alliance.)
In the past, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has criticized former Alberta premier Allison Redford for her lavish airfare-expense claims.
In addition, Bateman has screamed foul over airfare expenses charged by B.C. university and college presidents.
So why the silence around Premier Clark's flying habits?
Brian Bonney helped Bateman
The public doesn't know who funds the B.C. division of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. That's because it's not subject to the freedom-of-information law or any mandatory disclosure rules around its donor list.
It's conceivable that some contributors probably also fund the B.C. Liberals, but we don't know for certain if this is true.
Last year, the Straight reported that the Canadian Taxpayers Federation had retained former B.C. Liberal government communications director Brian Bonney as a fundraiser. Bonney is also a former director of operations with the B.C. Liberals.
Morever, Bonney is a long-time political ally of the premier dating back to her days as the MLA for Port Moody-Burnaby Mountain. He supported her leadership campaign, too.
Bonney was also at the heart of the 2013 ethnic-gate scandal. In this instance, the party repaid $70,000 to the provincial treasury for work that he had done for the B.C. Liberals while working as a government employee.
Bonney and another B.C. Liberal operative were each subsequently charged with three offences under the Election Act.
Campaigns yield email addresses
Nowadays, the B.C. division of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation specializes in running campaigns.
Among them are building a "debt-free B.C.", stopping a gas tax hike in Victoria, thwarting a referendum to fund an extension transit service, freezing medical-services premiums, raising an alarm over public-sector compensation, and fighting municipal tax hikes.
Bateman's group bills itself as a "citizens advocacy group dedicated to lower taxes, less waste and accountable government".
It's hard to see how the premier's use of private jets doesn't fall into the criteria of "waste". Especially when commercial flights are readily available between Vancouver and Kelowna.
Of course, those other Canadian Taxpayers Federation campaigns in B.C. enable the organization to harvest email addresses of people likely to oppose any expansion of public services. (For details on how data mining can be used for partisan political purposes, see this article and this article.)
If you're in the business of data mining to advance right-wing causes, a scandal involving a right-wing premier's use of private planes isn't going to be of much use, is it?
Bateman had ties to Rich Coleman
Bateman, a former journalist, was a two-term member of the Township of Langley council before joining the Canadian Taxpayers Federation in 2011.
In his time as a municipal politician, Bateman was a big supporter of Deputy Premier Rich Coleman.
It's not a stretch to predict that one day, Bateman might even occupy Coleman's Fort Langley-Aldergrove seat in the legislature. Bateman is still a resident of Langley, according to the Canadian Taxpayers Foundation website.
So in the meantime, if this B.C. premier is wasting taxpayers' money, the public has two options to consider.
Do B.C. residents rely on the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, which rescued a close ally of the premier after he was charged under the Election Act?
Or should they put their faith in journalist Bob Mackin to blow the whistle?
With Bateman training his sights on municipal expenses and university and college presidents, it's not a difficult choice.