Former B.C. official faces breach of trust charge over ethnic vote plan

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The Canadian Press
Victoria: A former communications director in the British Columbia government has been charged with breach of trust in connection with a strategy by the Liberals to win ethnic votes in the 2013 election.

Special prosecutor David Butcher approved the charge against Brian Bonney in connection with the duties of his office. Bonney was scheduled to make his first court appearance in Vancouver Tuesday.

Bonney was also charged in 2014 with expense violations under the Elections Act.

Butcher continued his investigation after the first charges were laid and received three separate reports from the Crown and the RCMP arising out of the government’s draft multicultural strategic outreach plan.

The investigation was launched shortly after a report from Premier Christy Clark’s deputy minister concluded that lines between the B.C. government and the provincial Liberal party were clearly crossed in the government’s effort to win ethnic votes.

The review caused Clark’s popularity ratings to plunge prior to the May 2013 election and forced the resignation of her then-multiculturalism minister, John Yap. Two Liberal insiders, Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee, also resigned.

Clark later apologized in the legislature for the ethnic votes plan, saying it was a very serious mistake.

In September 2013, just months after the election, former B.C. New Democrat 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 about the information, but said his actions had nothing to do with losing the election.

Current NDP Leader John Horgan said the information Dix provided to the Mounties played a role in the current investigation that resulted in the new charge against Bonney.

Speaking to reporters outside the legislature Tuesday, Horgan said he was concerned it took three years for the special prosecutor to complete the investigation.

“It strikes me that would lead to a lack of co-operation by government, a lack of co-operation by officials in the B.C. Liberal Party,” Horgan said.

He said the so-called quick wins scandal dates back to 2012.

“It was quite an elaborate, complicated plan where public information collected by public servants was transferred to the B.C. Liberal Party,” Horgan said.

Deputy Premier Rich Coleman said the charge against Bonney is disappointing.

He dismissed Horgan’s concerns about the amount of time it took the special prosecutor to complete his report.

“That’s pretty much an out there statement,” said Coleman. “I do find these things take a long time.”