Party under fire following allegations
By Angela Espinoza, News Editor
The BC Liberal government was under investigation last week regarding Elections Act offences from the 2012 Port Moody by-elections. Both Brian Bonney, previously the BC Liberal Party’s communications director, and Mark Robertson, director of field operations, are facing allegations of using tax money to help fund the Liberal Party campaign.
Bonney and Robertson’s charges are related to the ethnic vote scandal that was revealed last year by the NDP. Although only Bonney and Robertson are facing charges, Liberal members Kim Haakstad and Trevor Halford, amongst others, were also involved with pre-planning.
Those involved used personal and private email accounts to send documents (later obtained by CBC) to each other and plan accordingly, from as early as 2011.
Last May, then-NDP incumbent candidate Mike Farnworth told CBC, “This is not government on government time, this is political party work on the taxpayers’ dime. And that’s wrong and they know it. And that’s why they were using private email, so that they wouldn’t be subject to freedom of information.”
Earlier this year in March, Premier Christy Clark committed to having members of the Liberal Party repay $70,000 spent regarding the Election Acts scandal. Part of the $70,000 was meant to repay the government money previously paid as part of Bonney’s salary during that time. Bonney and Robertson’s current charges include fines that can be as much as $10,000.
The documents outlining the ethnic vote plan used phrases like “quick wins” and “swing votes” in order to help secure higher ethnic voter numbers. Some of these “quick wins” included planning public apologies for previous ethnic wrongdoings by the province.
Bonney and Robertson’s charges are for making and/or accepting political contribution and offence in relation to election expenses. According to the Sun News Network, Bonney stated in the emails, “If need be, offer X dollars per month to do non-public work up to election.”
Planning and money also went into the rebranding of Dennis Marsden, who lost a Liberal campaign. One Sepideh Sarrafpour was paid to help Marsden reestablish himself, and Sarrafpour herself is facing allegations that she also contributed to the campaign beyond advising.
A public statement and apology were released by the Liberal Party in response to the charges and allegations currently being faced. Included in the statement:
“In December 2013, the party filed an amendment to reallocate the expenditure, which Elections BC accepted. Amendments are permissible under the act, and are commonly filed by all parties. For example, this year alone, the BC Liberals [have] filed four amendments and the NDP 50 to their 2013 returns.”
Bonney and Robertson’s first court appearance is scheduled to be October 14.