OTTAWA – Premier Christy Clark is downplaying a criminal breach of trust charge against a former British Columbia government communications official connected to a Liberal vote-getting scandal, saying much of the information was outlined publicly more than three years ago.
Clark, who was in Ottawa on Wednesday to attend the official apology for the Komagata Maru incident in the House of Commons, said the so-called quick-wins strategy to court ethnic votes in the 2013 election was the focus of an exhaustive non-partisan investigation.
Brian Bonney was charged Tuesday in connection with the strategy by the Liberals to court voters in the election.
“Obviously, mistakes were made,” said Clark. “Three years ago there was a thorough non-partisan investigation done. … It’s not new information, but it’s obviously another step in the process and the justice system will take its time doing that.”
Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan had a different view.
“Clearly, it wasn’t dealt with three years ago or the RCMP wouldn’t have recommended charges and the special prosecutor would not have brought them forward,” he said in Victoria.
Outside court on Tuesday in Vancouver, Bonney’s lawyer, Ian Donaldson, said his client will fight the criminal code charge.
The scandal broke when documents obtained four years ago by the NDP outlined a Liberal government plan to woo the ethnic vote, including efforts to make public apologies for historic wrongs in multicultural communities.
Clark appointed her former deputy, John Dyble, to review the outreach plan in the months before the election. The review made six recommendations and said there were two instances of misuse of government resources, including that Bonney was being paid as a government employee while he worked for the government caucus and Liberal party.
It said at least half of Bonney’s time was spent doing work for the Liberals on the ethnic-outreach strategy, prompting the party to later reimburse the government $70,000 as part of Bonney’s salary.
Clark’s popularity ratings plunged prior to the May 2013 election and her then-multiculturalism minister, John Yap, resigned.
A special prosecutor was appointed to lead an investigation shortly after the government’s review.
In September 2013, just months after the Liberals were re-elected, former NDP leader Adrian Dix said he forwarded information to the RCMP in connection with the Liberal government’s plan to court ethnic voters. He refused to provide details.
The special prosecutor’s investigation continued as Bonney and Liberal aide Mark Robertson faced Elections Act charges in 2014 in connection with allegations of campaign expense violations in a byelection four years ago.
The Elections Act charges alleging failure to disclose a campaign contribution against Bonney and Robertson were stayed Tuesday.
A numbered B.C. company charged along with Bonney and Robertson pleaded guilty and was fined $5,000. Bonney was the president of the numbered company, said Dan McLaughlin, spokesman for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch.
Clark was in the House of Commons when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologized for the Komagata Maru incident in 1914 in Vancouver, in which hundreds of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers were denied entry to Canada and forced to return to a violent fate in India.