Earthquake appointment draws NDP ire

Former Chilliwack MLA John Les gets second government appointment, to head emergency preparedness project

As B.C. Solicitor General in 2005

VICTORIA – Former Chilliwack MLA John Les will be paid up to $140,000 to chair a province-wide consultation to report by the end of the year on earthquake preparedness.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton announced Tuesday that Les was chosen to chair the consultation, with Henry Renteria, former director of California’s Office of Emergency Services, serving as vice chair.

Les has unique experience as a former mayor of Chilliwack and former solicitor general in charge of the provincial emergency program, Anton said. That experience is why Les will be paid more than Renteria, who will make up to $100,000.

Anton refused to say if any other candidates were interviewed for the job. It is the second appointment for Les since retiring as an MLA before the 2013 election. He is also making up to $60,000 a year to chair the B.C. Farm Industry Review Board, to which he was appointed last November for a three-year term.

Anton said Les will forgo severance pay, an extension of the $101,000 MLA salary given to retiring and defeated MLAs for up to 15 months, because he has other income.

Les is also registered as a lobbyist, representing Belkorp Environmental Services, which operates the Cache Creek landfill. Belkorp is promoting garbage recycling facilities instead of additional incineration proposed by Metro Vancouver as the Cache Creek facility fills up.

NDP critic Shane Simpson said the apparent lack of a candidate search shows the appointment is patronage for a long-time supporter of the B.C. Liberals.

“Here we have this retired politician who has a full pension, already has a $60,000 patronage appointment, is a lobbyist, and now is about to get another $140,000 for some dubious notion he’s an expert about emergency preparedness,” Simpson said. “It truly does make the case that Les is more in this case.”

The Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation calculates that after 12 years as an MLA, Les qualifies for $48,289 a year in MLA pension once he turns 65.

 

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