|NDP MLA Jenny Kwan - centre - Bill Tieleman at right - at Fight HST rally with other NDP MLAs, September 2009|
Jenny immediately repaid nearly $35,000 to cover all possible costs of two trips where she and her family accompanied her former husband Dan Small - who was a PHS executive member and director of policy and research for the non-profit.
That repayment, as outlined in her statement on March 21, included his own travel costs - despite being assured that Jenny and her children's travel had been paid personally by Small.
She did that to ensure that the Portland Hotel Society was in no way paying for her family's travel - it is a principled move that I admire, particularly knowing that the PHS books are such an unfathomable mess there may never be a way to sort out who paid what.
It is important to know that at the time of travel, Jenny personally paid for and produced receipts for the trip to Disneyland in California, and that Small only was responsible for a room upgrade.
Let's be blunt - Jenny is a friend whom I greatly respect.
If she did nothing else in her life but be one of two brave NDP MLAs - with the formidable Joy MacPhail - facing 77 howling, horrible BC Liberals after the 2001 election, raising enormous issues and fighting for social justice - she would have earned my admiration forever.
But she has been outspoken before that on Vancouver City Council and since then as an MLA, representing some of the poorest people in Canada.
Those who criticize Jenny for trusting her spouse's word on these expenses should first consider if they have not done exactly the same.
They should then ask - what politician would risk their reputation and career over 2 trips?
Next, ask if someone paying $35,000 in expenses she did not knowingly incur, including those of her ex-husband, is not being honourable?
There is a lot of second-guessing going on and some partisan sniping outside and inside the BC NDP but the expectation that Jenny Kwan should know more about the operations of Portland Hotel Society than the entire provincial government that funded PHS to the tune of up to $29 million a year for the past 13 years is both astonishing and ridiculous.
In reality, this astonishing lack of accountability on the part of the BC government despite the obvious fact that the Portland Hotel Society was a high-profile, controversial and major recipient of taxpayer dollars should have screamed for attention.
Yet it was clearly ignored.
None of this is to negate the incredibly valuable work that PHS has done in the downtown eastside.
I respect the work done to help the poorest and most vulnerable citizens perhaps in our whole country. And I strong recommend you read a powerful piece from a PHS worker giving their perspective - which hasn't been heard in much of the media.
If you have doubts about where you stand on this, here's the take-away:
Jenny Kwan went on two trips with her partner and family.
She paid for one, except for hotel upgrades her partner said he paid for.
On the other trip, to Europe where her partner was speaking at a conference, he said he paid for the family's expenses personally.
When it turned out from the KPMG audit that there was absolutely no record or her partner having personally paid for family travel, Jenny Kwan paid all of it herself, including for her now ex-partner's share.
That in my book is honourable, it is respectful of taxpayers and the vulnerable people served by the Portland Hotel Society.
Those who carp that "she should have known" or that "she should have demanded receipts from her partner" are simply not being realistic or fair.
As Jenny said at her news conference, being in a relationship requires a degree of trust, something those of us who have travelled with spouses can attest to.
Ultimately, this is a sad personal situation for Jenny and to go through it in public with such vitriolic comments is an ordeal most of us will never face.
The BC NDP's longest serving MLA, the only Chinese-Canadian MLA in their caucus, someone who along with Joy MacPhail faced the most lopsided BC Legislature in history and did so with honour and courage is worthy of our understanding, not to be trashed.
I continue to support Jenny Kwan - as a dedicated MLA who fights for social justice and will keep doing so despite this challenge because she has earned my respect through her actions over the last 20 years.