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RCMP, prosecutor investigate B.C. Liberal government's ethnic vote plan

VICTORIA - The outgoing leader of British Columbia's New Democratic Party says information he provided to the RCMP last month has prompted an Election Act investigation and the appointment of a special prosecutor who has since been tasked with helping police probe the Liberal government's failed plan to woo ethnic voters.

"I was sufficiently concerned by the information that had come to our attention that we forwarded it to the RCMP in August," Dix said Thursday.

"I didn't comment on it. I didn't release a letter to the media. I thought the appropriate course was to have them review it and undertake an investigation."

B.C.'s Criminal Justice Branch issued a statement that special prosecutor Donald Butcher, a well-known Vancouver defence lawyer, was appointed to assist police with an ongoing investigation into alleged contraventions of the provincial Election Act.

The Criminal Justice Branch stated that following a complaint in August 2013, the RCMP launched an investigation into matters arising out of the Liberal government's review of the Draft Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan.

The Liberal multicultural plan to court ethnic voters in the run-up to last May's B.C. election resulted in the resignation from cabinet of the Liberal minister responsible for multiculturalism, the resignation of one of Premier Christy Clark's closest aides and the dismissal of at least one bureaucrat.

Dix would not describe the nature of the information he provided to the RCMP in August, but he indicated it was different than what the NDP had been using to question the Liberals since last February when they first leaked the plan to court ethnic voters.

"Those are issues that we put forth before the election, others came forth after the election, and there are other issues worthy of investigation, in my view," he said.

"I'm not providing any further detail. All of that stuff that was raised both before the election and after the election shows the Liberal Party and the premier in a very bad light."

A New Democrat source also would not elaborate on the new information Dix provided to the RCMP but said it came to light after the NDP's release last February of the original Liberal multicultural draft strategy and last July's legislative session.

At the time, the NDP said the release of 10,000 pages of documents connected to the government's own review of the scandal revealed conversations suggesting a former Liberal be offered a job in exchange for her silence on potentially damaging information about Clark and the Liberal government.

Dix's New Democrats were defeated in last May's election, losing a 20-point lead.

Last week, Dix announced he will step down as soon as the party can elect a new leader.

Clark's director of communications Ben Chin issued a statement on the investigation.

"It is inappropriate to comment during any ongoing investigation. The government of British Columbia respects this process, and will co-operate fully," said Chin. "Any citizen, including Mr. Dix, is free to file a complaint with the authorities."

Dix rejected suggestions that his decision to go to the police could be viewed as a case of sour grapes over his election loss.

"Obviously, the information came to our attention after the election," he said.

Special prosecutors are appointed to ensure transparency when police investigations might include government members or employees.

The leaked B.C. Liberals' ethnic vote strategy detailed an internal government plan that included government workers, some of whom were paid by the Liberal Party, to appeal to multicultural communities ahead of the May election.

The premier's deputy minister, John Dyble, concluded in a review ordered by Clark that government resources were misused.

The review, which made six recommendations, found two serious instances of misuse, including the payment of $6,800 to a community contractor for work approved by former multiculturalism minister John Yap without a signed contract.

The second instance concerned former government aide Brian Bonney who worked for the caucus and the Liberal party, while he was being paid as a government employee.

Dyble said at least half of Bonney's time was spent doing work for the Liberal party on the ethnic-outreach strategy, prompting the Liberal party to later reimburse the government $70,000 as part of Bonney's salary.

Dyble's review caused Clark's popularity ratings to plunge, forced John Yap out of cabinet and cost two Liberal insiders, Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee, their jobs.

Bonney left government for a private-sector job.

In July, Dix called the B.C. Liberals "cheats."

"If you look at the operation of this premier's office from leadership campaign to premier's office to election, they spent a lot of attention on this,'' Dix told reporters following question period where the ethnic-vote issue was hotly debated.

"Huge money was involved in government advertising, which is part of the plan. Huge efforts were made and significant efforts were made to use government resources it appears to develop lists.

"They diverted $1 million from the jobs' plan.''

Dyble's report included 10,000 pages of supporting documents, but the documentation wasn't released until after the May 14 election.

Dix said in July that emails contained in the documents indicate at least one person with the potential to damage the Liberals was not interviewed as part of the review.

The email in question involves communications suggesting a disgruntled former Liberal worker should be offered money to do non-public work before May's provincial election.

Before the election was called, the NDP led the Liberals in opinion polls by double-digits.

But the New Democrats barely mentioned the failed Liberal multicultural plan during the campaign.

They chose instead to stick to their positive message strategy, even though the Liberals frequently mentioned Dix's past episode with cheating during the 1990s where he admitting altering a memo to protect former NDP premier Glen Clark.

News from © The Canadian Press , 2013
The Canadian Press

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