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Conflict Commissioner Paul Fraser responds to Glen Robbins complaint re Christy Clark - with reply to response from GPR
  Apr 19, 2017

Commentary
From BC Conflict Commissioner Paul Fraser (QC).
Conflict of Interest
4:14 PM (16 hours ago)
From Paul Fraser Conflict Commissioner to Glen P. Robbins
Dear Mr. Robbins,
This message is in response to your email of April 11, 2017, in which you make a “complaint” against Premier Christy Clark. You referenced several sections of the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act (the “Act”), including sections 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 21, 21.1 and 26. Your complaint really centers on the allowance that Premier Clark received from the B.C. Liberal Party until January of this year.
As I understand it, the essence of your appears to be: that Premier Clark did not properly declare “the vehicle provided by her political party, outside the benefits provided by statute and the appearance of conflict of interest that she has with her political party, her Executive Council (Cabinet), her Caucus and to the Legislature”; and that the “$50,000 benefit should have been declared in filings” with my Office as income.
You indicate that the purpose of your complaint is “to have Christy Clark return the total value of the benefit she received from her party along with interest at the Registrar’s rate, and to provoke an inquiry into the matter of proper disclosure of any potential conflict(s) of interest of all members” (my emphasis).
In support of your first allegation, you refer to an excerpt from an interview in 2012 from the Tyee newspaper in which Premier Clark allegedly refers to getting “a car allowance” from her Party because she “does a lot of driving”. However, there is nothing in the material you provided to support your assertion that the party had actually provided a vehicle to Ms. Clark.
Under section 16 of the Act, Members are required to file a disclosure statement with my Office on an annual basis. All Members’ Public Disclosure Statements are filed with the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly and are available for public inspection.
Since becoming Leader in 2011, Premier Clark has annually disclosed receipt of a “Leader’s Allowance” from the B.C. Liberal Party, and this information has been included in all of her Public Disclosure Statements since that time. Under the Act, Members of the Legislative Assembly are required to disclose sources of income, but not dollar amounts. Accordingly, Premier Clark has been in compliance with her obligations under the Act in respect of the allowance.
Section 19 of the Act provides that “reasonable and probable grounds” must be provided to support an allegation that a Member has breached the Act. The information you have provided does not provide any such grounds that Premier Clark failed to comply with her disclosure obligations. Moreover, the remedy you seek is not among those available under section 22(1) of the Act. For all of these reasons, there are in my opinion no grounds that would warrant this Office taking any further steps with respect to your complaint.
Thank you for having contacted our Office to express your concerns.
Sincerely, Paul D.K. Fraser, Q.C. Conflict of Interest Commissioner
Response from Glen P. Robbins
Mr. Commissioner, you open the door to the first part of the complaint by suggesting there is no evidence of the allowance (allegedly disclosed to the Commissioner (I haven't seen the evidence of the disclosure) referred to now as a "leaders allowance" linked to the vehicle I reference. This isn't true, Premier Clark herself connects the "leaders allowance" to driving a vehicle. In many western democracies, an admission in the public gazette is sufficient evidence, where is has not been refuted.
The Premier is driving a Buick Enclave, she admits in the Tyee interview that this is a "car allowance". Her "leaders allowance" is used for a "car allowance". There are also claims of an address where she resides, owned by a BC Liberal donor. (Obviously, the whole of the $50,000 "allowance" could not be used for a vehicle, was some of it used to pay the BC Liberal donor lease or rent)? To further underscore this point, is there evidence of Christy making payments directly to the landlord, or did the BC Liberal Party connected to the donor pay the donor directly rather than pay Christy (who would presumably then pay the landlord). What was the amount required for the car she admits to be driving on behalf of the party.
For the Commissioner's Office to say there is no evidence that the party provided with a car in context of the evidence put before it, in my opinion is opening up the door on bad faith, at least a crack. We know Christy received a leaders allowance. We know there is nothing in the legislation which permits a "leaders allowance". Christy admits to using this 'illegal' allowance for a car, for party purposes and not on behalf of British Columbians for which she receives her MLA salary and Premier amount. She is eligible for other allowance when she attends to Victoria like other MLA's in the same position are.
This response from the BC Conflict Commissioner does not properly deal with the complaint as provided. An allowance provided from an eligible granter under the Income Tax Act usually amounts to a few hundred dollars per year. The BC Liberal Party is not eligible to make a leaders allowance to Christy Clark under the Income Tax Act. Even if it were, the amount of this type of nominal allowance does not have to be declared as income. I suspect Christy hasn't declared this benefit as income as she must do.
There is enormous evidence that the illegal allowance amounted to $50,000 per year. I note with some astonishment that the Commissioner states that Premier Christy or anyone else does not have to disclose the amount, just that she received an allowance. This seems inconsistent with many aspects of the Act relating to other gifts (ie trips abroad and such) which appear to have threshold consideration or infer standards, through value of gifts. How is the leadership allowance any different from any other gift?
Obviously, the Conflict Act refers to the perception of conflict.of Public perception exists outside the Commissioners position on the arguments, leaving the response incomplete in my opinion There is more than enough evidence that this leaders allowance does not pass the smell test from any perspective of perception.
Obviously we need to have a public discussion about the manner in which allowances are disclosed as the present situation of not disclosing specific amounts would not be acceptable to any right thinking British Columbian armed with the facts, which the Commissioner's Office KNOWS FULL WELL. I don't believe the Commissioners Office given the whole of the information before it is acting in good faith.
I will be also be filing a complaint with the Ombudspersons Office and Elections BC relating to the "leaders allowance" paid by the BC Liberal Party to Premier Clark. The Conflict Act relates to all activities here of which the BC Liberal Party is 'party' with Premier Clark. The BC Liberal Party is governed by the Elections Act.
The weakness of the Conflict Commissioners Office, given the significant attention provided in the legislation to the (apparent) annual (frank) discussions between the Commissioner and MLA's (including Christy Clark) as these discussions ultimately concern public perception (and public confidence), is disconcerting to me as it appears the Commissioner is acting as if it is Christy's legal representative and not a Commissioner responsible for stewardship of a specific Act for specific elected people in a non partisan way.
Glen P. Robbins

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