VICTORIA – Elections Act charges laid against two B.C. Liberal operatives and a Liberal-connected communications firm show the public never got the full story from Christy Clark’s internal investigation into the “Quick Wins” scandal, say New Democrats.
“Two highly connected B.C. Liberal operatives ran a communications firm directly involved in electoral politics at the same time one of them was being paid by taxpayers to work in the provincial government, where he was also managing Liberal political projects during work hours,” said New Democrat house leader Mike Farnworth.
“The fact that their company, Mainland Communications, whose directors were a Liberal Party director and a Christy Clark campaign supporter, was not mentioned once in the documents released after the investigation into the Quick Wins scandal, and that we’re only learning about the connection now through these charges, is astounding. It really shows how Premier Clark set out to cover up the scandal before the election,” said Farnworth.
Farnworth pointed out that when Premier Clark appointed her own deputy minister, John Dyble, to investigate in the wake of the scandal unveiled by New Democrats, she deliberately gave him narrow Terms of Reference that did not permit investigation of the close relationships between government, the premier’s office and the B.C. Liberal Party.
“Premier Clark’s claims that she had no idea her deputy chief of staff and close friend Kim Haakstad was running the Quick Wins scheme out of the premier’s office never had any credibility. Now that we are starting to see the extent of the things she tried to keep hidden, it’s even more clear she had something to hide and she knew it.”
Backgrounder: B.C. Liberal operatives charged with Elections Act offenses
On September 8, 2014, the Ministry of Justice announced that charges had been laid against Brian Bonney, Mark Robertson and 075083 B.C. Ltd (doing business as Mainland Communications) for offences under B.C.’s Elections Act that the Crown alleges occurred between February 22, 2012 and April 19, 2012, in the period leading up to the Port Moody-Coquitlam by-election.
Mark Robertson was at the material time, and remains, a director with Premier Christy Clark‘s B.C. Liberal Party.
At the time of the alleged offences, Bonney was receiving a taxpayer-paid salary as a communications director in the Government Communications and Public Engagement (“GCPE”) office.
Bonney was the 2009 campaign manager for former MLA Harry Bloy, Christy Clark’s only caucus supporter in the 2011 BC Liberal leadership campaign. Bonney was himself a strong supporter and activist in the Clark leadership campaign.
He was appointed as a GCPE director after Clark became premier and assigned to work with then minister Bloy in multiculturalism. At the time of the alleged offences, Athana Mentzelopoulos had been deputy minister of GCPE for about two months, having left an earlier four-month position directly in Clark’s premier’s office.
While a GCPE director during Mentzelopoulos’ time as its deputy minister, Bonney was also a key player in the B.C. Liberals’ Burnaby Hospital scandal and the subsequent “Quick Wins” scandal.
- 2001: Bonney served as former Burnaby-Lougheed MLA Harry Bloy’s Campaign Manager. Bloy is the only member of the B.C. Liberal caucus to support Clark’s leadership bid.
- 2002-07: Bonney served as the B.C. Liberal Party’s Director of Operation.
- 2011: Bonney was an early and active supporter of Premier Christy Clark’s B.C. Liberal leadership campaign. On February 19, 2011, Burnaby Now reported Bonney said “’I looked at those criteria and decided Christy Clark was the person I had to support, and I don’t do anything small, so I went out and did it in a big way,’ he said. Bonney then e-mailed all 2,000 of his personal contacts and started making calls.”
- October 2011: Bonney was appointed a director in GCPE by then-Deputy Minister Neil Sweeney and assigned to Bloy’s Multiculturalism ministry.
- December 2011: On December 1, 2011, Bonney attended the inaugural meeting of Liberal operatives to execute Clark’s Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan. The meeting was chaired by Clark’s Deputy Chief of Staff Kim Haakstad and the group of public service employees was tasked with using taxpayer resources to create a voter contact database for use by the B.C. Liberal Party in subsequent election campaigns. Clark appointed Athana Mentzelopoulos the GCPE deputy minister on December 16, 2011.
- February – April 2012 –The time period during which Bonney, Robertson and Mainland Communications are charged with contravening the Election Act.
- January 2013: Bonney quietly leaves the public service.
- February 28, 2013: Clark appoints her deputy minister, John Dyble, to review public allegations related to the Quick Wins scandal, but the conduct of cabinet ministers, MLAs, B.C. Liberal caucus staff and the B.C. Liberal Party are exempted from the review.
- March 2013: Bonney is named as a key player in the “Draft Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan”. Dyble concluded that Bonney’s transgressions included:
- Violating the B.C. Public Service’s Standards of Conduct;
- Failing to distinguish between B.C. Liberal Party work and public service employment;
- Routinely used private email accounts in an effort to avoid creating an accessible paper trail of his activities;
- Effectively working as an employee of the B.C. Liberal Party while being paid as a full-time employee of the B.C. Public Service.
The B.C. Liberal Party was subsequently forced to repay taxpayers for a portion of Bonney’s salary. The review never revealed that Bonney, while paid by the taxpayer for his government job, was a director along with B.C. Liberal director Robertson in the politically-active Mainland Communications.