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Health authority cancels untendered contract to VP linked to Premier Clark

The Vancouver Island Health Authority has rescinded a contract it directly awarded to the husband of an adviser to Premier Christy Clark.

"The Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is aware of recent concerns regarding a contract that was signed for an interim Vice President of Communications and External Engagement with the health authority," a statement said.

"Upon reflection and in the interest of transparency, VIHA has canceled the contract. We want to emphasize this decision in no way reflects the qualifications of the contractor, but the need to ensure due process is followed. A tendering process (Request For Proposal) will get underway for this position in the near future in accordance with VIHA’s Fair Business practices."

The Times-Colonist's Cindy Harnett and Rob Shaw reported today that former Vancouver Sun editor Stewart Muir was direct-awarded a $161,800 one-year contract as vice-president of communications and external relations for VIHA. *

Muir is married to Clark's deputy minister for corporate priorities, Athana Mentzelopoulos.

"My expectation is that contracts are procured according to the policy and guidelines that VIHA and other health authorities have in place," said Health Minister Mike de Jong. "Apparently that did not happen here and VIHA has taken what I think is the appropriate step."

Asked about Muir's connections to her office and whether the appointment amounted to 'cronyism', Clark said, "Well yes, it would be if I had anything to do with it, but I didn't."

VIHA made the decision and has taken steps to correct it, she said. "You've got to follow guidelines. It's not acceptable if you don't follow guidelines."

Muir was temporarily replacing Neil Sweeney, who became the deputy minister responsible for what was previously known as the public affairs bureau in the Clark government.

* Figure corrected Nov. 23, after the T-C printed a correction saying VIHA had said it made a mistake when it first gave a $181,000 figure for the contract.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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