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Democracy Watch challenges conflict rulings in favour of B.C. premier

FILE PHOTO - B.C. Premier Christy Clark fields a question at the closing news conference of the summer meeting of Canada's premiers in St. John's on Friday, July 17, 2015.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
October 26, 2016 - 6:30 PM

VICTORIA - Two rulings clearing British Columbia Premier Christy Clark of conflict of interest allegations are now being challenged in B.C. Supreme Court by a citizen advocacy group.

Ottawa-based Democracy Watch has petitioned the court to set aside rulings last May and August by provincial conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser.

They cleared Clark of conflict allegations connected to her attendance at high-priced, exclusive B.C. Liberal party fundraising events.

The petition filed Tuesday in Vancouver also asked the court to find Fraser should not have ruled on the complaints because his son works as a deputy minister for the provincial government.

The petition said John Fraser "has personal ties to the premier. It is reasonable to suggest that the close family connection to senior members of the B.C. Liberal party, including Premier Clark, is a factor indicating a reasonable apprehension of bias."

It also said the conflict commissioner recused himself in 2012 from a separate conflict complaint against Clark by a former Liberal member of the legislature on grounds his son's senior government role could be viewed as creating a perception of conflict.

Fraser, citing unique family connections in 2012, said in a letter he was handing that earlier review to the conflict commissioner for the Northwest Territories to complete.

The petition filed Tuesday seeks an order to quash and set aside Fraser's May 4 and Aug. 9 rulings on conflict allegations about Clark's fundraising appearances. It also asked to send the complaints "to a substitute decision maker for reconsideration."

Fraser was not immediately available for comment, and Clark's office said in a statement it will not comment while the matter is under review.

Fraser ruled last May that Clark's appearances at exclusive B.C. Liberal party fundraisers where guests paid up to $20,000 to attend did not constitute a conflict of interest because she did not receive a personal benefit.

Fraser said in his August ruling on separate conflict complaints, filed by Opposition New Democrat MLA David Eby and Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher, that he considered the matter closed.

However, Conacher said in a statement Wednesday that he's asking the court to "overrule commissioner Fraser's decision that the donations didn't benefit Premier Clark or put her in a conflict of interest."

Conacher's statement also said Fraser stepped aside in 2012 because of his son's work "and he should have stepped aside again this time."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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