With files from Simon Little
Premier Christy Clark is off the hook when it comes to pricey fundraisers that let donors meet her face to face.
Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser has ruled the events, sometimes pulling in as much as $20,000 a head, do not constitute a conflict.
In a ruling that is bound to infuriate the Opposition New Democrats, Fraser says “helping to boost the Party’s financial wellbeing is a political benefit, rather than a private financial one.”
He also says there is no evidence to suggest Clark earns a commission based on how much money is raised, ruling the salary top-up Clark collects for her role in the fundraisers is on-side.
“While it is a financial benefit paid directly to the Premier, it is paid by the Party from general funds and is not attributable to any one donor or group of donors.”
The complaints were filed by the opposition New Democrats after it emerged that the Liberals were holding the high-rolling fundraisers that were labelled by some as pay-to-play access for special interests.
NDP MLA David Eby says it’s more proof of a “broken system.”
“There is some pretty contorted logic to say that somebody who gets $50,000 which is entirely dependent on the financial well-being of the BC Liberal Party and their ability to raise donations is somehow not a personal benefit. I mean I would consider $50,000 as a personal benefit, I think alot of people would.”
He says the ruling shows, if anything, that rules around donations need to be reformed.
“It’s apparently under this commissioner perfectly legal and acceptable. I think it is actually more ammunition for the idea that first of all that we need to get big money of politics, and secondly ban these kind of payments to people who sit on the executive council like the Premier and Cabinet Ministers.”
Someone else is weighing in…
“It adds up to a corruption and undermining of B.C.’s democracy, rubber stamped as ethical by ethics commissioners who are lap dogs and not watch dogs for the public interest. I think it’s the wrong decision.”
Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch also made complaints against Clark.
The reasoning for the deicison isn’t sitting well with Conacher.
“He is essentially approving an unethical relationship between donors and the Premier that I think clearly amounts to an illegal gift.”
Conacher says the public still has a right to know who was at the fundraising events and what the costs to attend were, in order to see if donors are benefitting from Clark’s decisions.
The Premier is paid a salary “top up” of up to $50,000 a year.
It’s drawn from money raised at the fundraisers for her role in them.