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No gold for Olympic brass

The 2010 Winter Olympics may be all about going for the gold but those running the provincial government's Olympic Games secretariat seem to be having trouble just reaching the finishing line.

The 2010 Winter Olympics may be all about going for the gold but those running the provincial government's Olympic Games secretariat seem to be having trouble just reaching the finishing line.

According to employee surveys obtained exclusively by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, the secretariat has the worst rated executives in government.

Those surveys asked employees if their top bosses:

communicate decisions in a timely manner

clearly communicate strategic changes and/or changes in priorities

provide clear direction for the future

At the secretariat, which oversees the province's financial commitment to the Games, just 31 per cent of respondents agreed with the first question, 33 per cent with the second and 44 per cent with the third.

That meant its executives got the lowest marks in government - even beating out those at the troubled Ministry of Children and Family Development, who came in second to last.

A spokesperson explained the survey was conducted at a time when the secretariat "was still in the middle of reorganizing its management structure for the final countdown to the Games."

Since then "the leadership team is now well established and concrete steps have been taken to address issues raised in the work environment survey."

Among those issues: the secretariat was also rated as having the worst staffing practices in government.

According to the survey - which was administered between April 6 to 29 - just 32 per cent of respondents agreed the selection of staff is based on merit and only 38 per cent agreed that selection process is fair.

"This is consistent with a lot of really troubling stories that we've heard about the Olympics and the management of the Olympics and the planning and execution of the Olympics," said New Democrat critic Kathy Corrigan.

Nevertheless, the secretariat spokesperson expressed confidence his "organization is well positioned to deliver very successful Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games."

The survey results, which were released to bureaucrats in May, are the latest controversy to hit the secretariat.

Earlier this year, its top bureaucrat got a severance agreement worth more than $300,000 when she left the civil service by "mutual consent."

Annette Antoniak departed the secretariat before the survey was administered.

Playing a close hand

In the gambling business, the house always wins.

But it seems the British Columbia Lottery Corp. thinks the same rules apply when questions are raised about the help its giving problem gamblers. Under the corporation's so-called self-exclusion program, those gamblers can ask to be barred from the province's casinos, community gaming centres, bingo halls or racetracks.

In Ontario, a similar program has been targeted with a $3.5 billion class-action lawsuit because of its alleged shortcomings. But, in British Columbia, the corporation is thwarting efforts to investigate if there have been shortcomings with our own program.

This July, it rejected a June 2008 freedom of information request from Public Eye for records assessing the program's performance.

The reason: because those records might contain policy advice or information that could harm the corporation's financial or economic interests. If you're a Public Eye reader, you may remember reading something about this story before.

But there's a new twist to this tale. Public Eye appealed the corporation's decision to information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis's office.

And that's when British Columbia Lotteries tried to cut a deal.

Drop the appeal and we'll make "available" the two "final reports of the Voluntary Self-Exclusion process." We turned down that offer and filed another freedom of information request for those final reports.

The corporation responded by giving us just one of them, a seven-page document checking-in on whether it had been doing enough to ensure it isn't marketing to self-excluded players.

But it's keeping the remaining 72 page report under lock and key for a range of reasons, claiming their release could compromise the security of the corporation's computers systems, violate solicitor-client privilege and so on.

Asked for comment, New Democrat critic Shane Simpson said, "The issue of whether the programs for problem gamblers are being successful or not is a matter of public interest. And the lottery corporation should not be able to block the public interest."

"It's objectionable the lottery corporation would try to negotiate a deal to be able to keep information off-the-table. And then, when a journalist won't accept the deal, they then punish him by refusing to supply the information they said they would supply in the first place."

Sean Holman is editor of the online provincial political news journal Public Eye ( He can be reached at

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