RCMP, prosecutor investigate B.C. Liberals' ethnic vote plan
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark addresses the media during the closing news conference on the final day of the Council of the Federation summer meeting in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., Friday, July 26, 2013. (Aaron Lynett / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Thursday, September 26, 2013 8:39PM EDT
VICTORIA -- The RCMP and a special prosecutor have been investigating whether any laws were broken as part of the B.C. Liberal government's strategy to woo ethnic voters.
NDP Leader Adrian Dix said Thursday the RCMP probe was prompted by a confidential letter from him.
"I thought these issues were sufficiently serious as to warrant an investigation," Dix said in a news release.
"The RCMP has now undertaken one and a special prosecutor has been appointed."
The Criminal Justice Branch said Thursday David Butcher, a well-known defence lawyer in British Columbia, was appointed at the end of last month to conduct an independent review of any potential charges the RCMP might recommend to the Crown and if a prosecution does go ahead, to conduct it and any resulting appeal.
The branch said in its announcement Thursday the complaint being investigated alleged Election Act irregularities.
Ben Chin, director of communications for Premier Christy Clark, declined comment.
"It is inappropriate to comment during any ongoing investigation. The Government of British Columbia respects this process, and will co-operate fully.
"Any citizen, including Mr. Dix, is free to file a complaint with the authorities," Chin said in a statement.
The NDP said Dix would not be clarifying the remarks he made in his news release and would not be giving any more details about what infractions he wanted the RCMP to look into.
"In order to ensure the integrity of the work of the special prosecutor and the RCMP, I will not provide any further details at this point," he wrote. "For the same reasons, I chose not to draw public attention to these concerns after I had written to the RCMP. At this stage, it is important to let the investigation run its course. "
Special prosecutors are appointed to ensure transparency when police investigations might include government members or employees.
The B.C. Liberals' ethnic voters strategy was leaked by the NDP in March and it detailed an internal government plan to appeal to multicultural communities ahead of the May election.
The scandal forced the resignation of a minister and top Liberal bureaucrats.
The premier's deputy minister, John Dyble, concluded in the review that government resources were misused.
The review, which made six recommendations, found two serious instances of misuse, including the payment of $6,800 to a community contractor for work approved by former multiculturalism minister John Yap without a signed contract.
The second instance concerned former government aide Brian Bonney who worked for the caucus and the Liberal party, while he was being paid as a government employee.
Dyble said at least half of Bonney's time was spent doing work for the Liberal party on the ethnic-outreach strategy, prompting the Liberal party to later reimburse the government $70,000 as part of Bonney's salary.
Dyble's review caused Clark's popularity ratings to plunge, forced Yap out of cabinet and cost two Liberal insiders, Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee, their jobs.
Bonney left government for a private-sector job.
In July, Dix called the B.C. Liberals "cheats."
"If you look at the operation of this premier's office from leadership campaign to premier's office to election, they spent a lot of attention on this," Dix told reporters following question period where the ethnic-vote issue was hotly debated.
"Huge money was involved in government advertising, which is part of the plan. Huge efforts were made and significant efforts were made to use government resources it appears to develop lists.
"They diverted $1 million from the jobs' plan."
Dyble's report included 10,000 pages of supporting documents, but the documentation wasn't released until after the May 14 election.
Dix said in July that emails contained in the documents indicate at least one person with the potential to damage the Liberals was not interviewed as part of the review.
The email in question involves communications suggesting a disgruntled former Liberal worker should be offered money to do non-public work before May's provincial election.
Before the election was called, the NDP led the Liberals in opinion polls by double-digits.
But the New Democrats barely mentioned the failed Liberal multicultural plan during the election campaign. They chose instead to stick to their positive message strategy, even though the Liberals frequently mentioned Dix's past episode with cheating during the 1990s where he admitting altering a memo to protect former NDP premier Glen Clark.
Dix said last week he would resign as leader and took responsibility for any missteps made during the campaign.