Finance Minister orders review of new Virk emails at Kwantlen

VICTORIA – British Columbia’s finance minister ordered a review Monday of newly revealed emails connected to the province’s advanced education minister and his time as a board member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Officials at the Finance Ministry said de Jong will ask Rob Mingay, a high-level bureaucrat who issued a report in June reviewing board practices, to examine the new documents. Mingay’s report concluded the Vancouver-area polytechnic university’s board failed to meet government disclosure requirements when it topped up salaries of senior executives.

When Mingay’s report was released, de Jong said Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk’s actions during his time as a volunteer board member at Kwantlen were not acceptable, but he also said those actions did not warrant penalties.

De Jong will now ask Mingay to examine the new emails and determine if they would have resulted in different conclusions.

The Opposition New Democrats introduced emails in the legislature that were sent by Virk, a former Mountie, from his RCMP email account during his time as a board member.

Virk confirmed the emails were legitimate.

“Those emails are from an account I haven’t had access to for close to two years,” he said.

The NDP said the emails show Virk was more involved in the hiring of the institution’s former vice-president Anne Lavack than previously thought.

NDP Leader John Horgan said Virk should be dumped from cabinet.

“Mr. Virk has demonstrated bad judgment not once, not twice, but three times and it’s probably time for him to get out of cabinet,” said Horgan.

Mingay’s report found Kwantlen’s board violated government disclosure guidelines on two occasions: once during the 2011 process of hiring Lavack and again during the hiring of current president Alan Davis.

Mingay’s report found a Kwantlen board offer of an extra $50,000 to Lavack as a pre-employment contract “was inconsistent with the spirit and intent of Public Sector Employment Council’s guidelines.” The report also found a $50,000 pre-employment contract in 2012 with Davis “was inconsistent with the spirit and intent of PSEC’s guidelines.”

The report found the Kwantlen board was not aware of Lavack’s extra $50,000, but the board, of which Virk was a member, was aware of the $50,000 for Davis.

The emails released Monday indicate Virk, through his RCMP account, appeared to be more aware of and involved in the Lavack hiring process.

In one email, Virk appears to offering tips on how to improve the board’s financial offer to Lavack.

Mingay’s report did not call for sanctions against Kwantlen or Virk. Instead, he recommended disclosure and reporting sessions for bureaucrats at the Post-Secondary Employers’ Association and the Public Sector Employer’s Council, as well as staff within the Advanced Education Ministry.

The report also recommended board members at post-secondary institutions be aware of their responsibilities and obligations when it comes transparency in disclosing compensation agreements.