A special prosecutor has laid a charge of breach of trust against former B.C. government communications staffer Brian Bonney for his role in a project that used government resources to help the B.C. Liberal Party.
The charge under Section 122 of the Criminal Code makes it an offence for a public official to commit a breach of trust “in connection with the duties of his office.” It was laid by Vancouver lawyer David Butcher, who was appointed special prosecutor in the case in 2013.
The charge relates to a plan to use government staff time to organize events in ethnic communities, then collect names for use in the B.C. Liberal election campaign of 2013. It was detailed in a leaked memo from Kim Haakstad, then Premier Christy Clark’s deputy chief of staff.
Disclosure of the memo led to the resignations of Haakstad and Bonney. Richmond-Steveston MLA John Yap also resigned as minister of state for multiculturalism, and the B.C. Liberal Party paid $70,000 to the government to compensate for inappropriate use of public employee time.
The memo described a plan to organize events such as a formal apology for the historical “head tax” on Chinese immigrants, and collect names of participants for use by the B.C. Liberal election campaign. The memo referred to such appeals to ethnic voters as “quick wins,” a term used by opposition critics to remind the public of the events.
NDP leader John Horgan said the latest charge adds to charges in Ontario against B.C. Liberal Party executive director Laura Miller and another ex-communications staffer, George Gretes, charged with lying to the Information and Privacy Commissioner about deleting emails.
“The premier ran on a platform of families first,” Horgan said. “We didn’t know it was going to be a Godfather kind of family.”
Deputy Premier Rich Coleman said the government did the right thing by referring the situation to a special prosecutor, and had no say in the three-year investigation.
“People have to be held responsible for their own actions,” Coleman said of Bonney. “It’s not like somebody directed somebody to do something to break a law.”
The charge follows three Election Act charges against Bonney and a B.C. Liberal Party staffer in 2014, related to their role in the B.C. Liberal by-election campaign in Port Moody-Coquitlam in 2012.