NDP wants wider ethnic outreach probe

An investigation into a planned ethnic outreach program with ties to the B.C. Liberal Party doesn't go far enough, NDP MLAs say

Juan de Fuca MLA John Horgan

An investigation by four deputy ministers into a planned ethnic outreach program with ties to the B.C. Liberal Party doesn’t go far enough, NDP MLAs say.

In the last question period of the legislature session before the election campaign, NDP critics demanded an outside review of the plan to organize ethnic events and hire contractors who would assemble lists for use by the B.C. Liberal Party.

NDP house leader John Horgan said the internal review didn’t have authority to interview B.C. Liberal Party campaign manager Mike McDonald, who was Premier Christy Clark’s chief of staff when the strategy was developed.

“What we have here is the Liberal caucus, the premier’s office, a minister of the Crown and a senior communications director using their offices day after day after day to collect information from citizens and transmit it to the B.C. Liberal Party.” Horgan told reporters. “And nobody seems to be concerned about that, in this government.”

Cabinet minister Bill Bennett led the B.C. Liberal counter-attack in question period, referring to a recently unveiled system of deducting $202 per month from each NDP constituency office to fund political activities by the NDP caucus and hire an ethnic outreach contractor.

The program diverted more than $500,000 for purposes that Auditor General John Doyle determined were partisan activities, from 2005 to 2010. They included payments to hide budget overruns on NDP caucus activities.

“We have all apologized for the mistakes that were made,” Bennett said. “On the other hand, the NDP have been caught with their hand in the cookie jar.”

Horgan angrily rejected the comparison, saying the deductions were authorized by the former legislature accountant.

“When the Auditor General said it was inappropriate, we ceased the activity,” Horgan said.

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