Amrik Virk switched out of advanced education portfolio

  • Vacouver, Hindustan Times, Canada
  • Updated: Dec 19, 2014 18:47 IST

Premier Christy Clark shuffled her embattled minister of advanced education to another portfolio on Thursday amid new revelations that he was directly involved in a decision to award a second executive at Kwantlen Polytechnic University a lucrative contract that broke government rules.

A spokesman at the Premier’s Office, however, said Amrik Virk’s move to the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services had nothing to do with the amendments Robert Mingay made to his original June report of the school’s questionable executive compensation practices.

“No", the spokesman said when asked if the shuffle was related to the amendments, which were released earlier Thursday. “Time is right for change.”

In a brief statement, Clark said: “These changes allow us to make the decisions necessary for a thriving province.”

Virk, MLA for Surrey-Tynehead, swaps places with Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, who will now assume the advanced education portfolio.

The so-called Kwantlen issue, first raised by NDP critic David Eby, has dogged Virk for the better part of a year. It involves decisions in which Virk was involved in 2011 — while serving as the vice-chair of the Kwantlen’s board — to award two of the school’s executives contracts that were in clear violation of provincial guidelines.

During the time in question, Virk was still an RCMP officer and had not yet been elected to office. The vice-chair position was voluntary.

Following Eby’s revelations, Mingay, an assistant deputy minister, was ordered by Finance Minister Mike de Jong to look into the school’s compensation practices.

Mingay’s original report found that Virk and the board were aware of one of the contracts, but not of the one awarded to Anne Lavack, the school’s former vice-president.

However, in November, Mingay was asked to revisit his findings after the NDP tabled new evidence — emails — that captured a back-and-forth discussion detailing Lavack’s contract.

Virk, who used his RCMP email account during the exchange, which also involved the school’s then president, initially said he didn’t remember writing them.

Mingay said the new information changes the facts of his original report, but not the overall conclusions and recommendations.

The NDP renewed their call on Thursday for Virk to be fired, saying the shuffle isn’t enough. Clark has publicly backed Virk on the file more than once.

“Minister Virk should have done the honourable thing months ago and stepped down,” NDP critic Kathy Corrigan said in a statement. “Failing that, the premier had a duty to the public to step in and fire him.”

On Wednesday, Gordon Lee, the vice-president of finance and administration and deputy vice-chancellor at Kwantlen, resigned from his post at the school, effective immediately.

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