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NEWS RELEASE · 15th December 2010
BC First

Ruling attached below

Delaney: Precedent setting ruling blurs line between public and private interest and opens door to future MLA abuse

In a precedent setting ruling, Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul D. K. Fraser Q.C. has ruled that BC Premier Gordon Campbell was not in a conflict of interest when he used public funds to attend the private Bilderberg Conference in Spain this past June, says BC First Spokesman Chris Delaney.

Delaney says Fraser released the details of his ruling late yesterday after conducting a thorough inquiry which included questioning the premier and others to determine if a conflict had occurred under Section 2 of the Members Conflict of Interest Act, which reads as follows:

Conflict of interest
2 (1) For the purposes of this Act, a member has a conflict of interest when the member exercises an official power or performs an official duty or function in the execution of his or her office and at the same time knows that in the performance of the duty or function or in the exercise of the power there is the opportunity to further his or her private interest.
(2) For the purposes of this Act, a member has an apparent conflict of interest if there is a reasonable perception, which a reasonably well informed person could properly have, that the member's ability to exercise an official power or perform an official duty or function must have been affected by his or her private interest.

Delaney says the Conflict Commissioner confirmed that the premier did in fact use public funds totaling $8,709.23 to attend the conference. He says the Commissioner’s report included the Bilderberg’s description of the 2010 meeting: […. The participants represented government, diplomacy, politics, business, law, education, journalism, and institutes specializing in national and international studies. All participants spoke in a personal capacity, not as representatives of their national governments or employers… no public reporting of the conference took place.]

Delaney says absent from the Commissioner’s report was the Bilderberg Group’s official description of their meetings which was submitted to him by Delaney, and which is published on the Bilderberg web site as follows:

Website HERE

[There usually are about 120 participants of whom about two-thirds come from Europe and the balance from North America. About one-third are from government and politics, and two-thirds from finance, industry, labor, education, communications. Participants attend Bilderberg in a private and not an official capacity.]

Delaney says Commissioner Fraser simply ignored the Bilderberg’s own description of their meetings as “private” and then issued the following statements: “It is clear that the invitation to the Premier was to attend as the head of the government of British Columbia.” and “In my view it is inaccurate in the context of everything we know about the Bilderberg Meeting to properly call it a ‘private conference’.”

“Commissioner Fraser goes on to say that the essential benefit of the “off-the-record” discussion intrinsic to Bilderberg meetings would be lost if the attendees did not speak in their private capacities. While this may be true it does not materially change the fact the meeting is therefore a private one, as Bilderberg themselves describe it,” explained Delaney.

“That the premier is always the premier until he resigns or is voted out of office also does not change the fact that he may attend functions as a private citizen. The Commissioner’s ruling ignores that and sets a dangerous precedent that when applied to all MLAs opens the door to all sorts of abuse.”

Delaney says the Commissioner added his own personal opinions on the value of the meeting to British Columbians by saying: “The intellectual stimulation and benefit that the Premier received by attending the meeting was, given his position as the head of the Government, also a benefit to the citizens of this province. Information is the currency of democracy and the source of knowledge that informs public policy.”

“He’s saying that in order to advance democracy the premier can meet in secret and acquire information he will never disclose to his citizens,” said Delaney. “I think most British Columbians would have a little trouble with the Commissioner’s unique concept of democracy.”

Delaney says that the Conflict Commissioner also dealt with the second part of his request which was to determine if the premier received a private benefit while attending the conference and if so, did he report it as required by Section 7 of the Act, as follows:

Accepting extra benefits

7 (1) A member must not accept a fee, gift or personal benefit, except compensation authorized by law, that is connected directly or indirectly with the performance of his or her duties of office.

(2) Subsection (1) does not apply to a gift or personal benefit that is received as an incident of the protocol or social obligations that normally accompany the responsibilities of office.

(3) If a gift or personal benefit referred to in subsection (2) exceeds $250 in value, or if the total value received directly or indirectly from one source in any 12 month period exceeds $250, the member must immediately file with the commissioner a disclosure statement, in the form prescribed by the regulations, indicating

(a) the nature of the gift or benefit,

(b) its source, and

(c) the circumstances under which it was given and accepted.

Delaney says the Commissioner verfied that all of Premier Campbell’s expenses at the meeting for accommodations, meals, lodging, and ground transportation were paid by the Bilderberg Group, and that the premier did not report the value of the hospitality provided at the meeting as a gift received under Section 7 of the Members Conflict of Interest Act.

Delaney explained, “Commissioner Fraser admits that Premier Campbell disobeyed Section 7 of the Act. However, he justifies that by saying that the premier’s presence at the meeting enhanced the Province’s international profile which resulted in the benefits paid by Bilderberg to Campbell being considered a ‘gift to the Province’ rather than to the Premier personally, therefore making it unnecessary under the Act for him to disclose those expenses.”

“I think Fraser probably threw a disc out with that back flip on the rules. He’s saying that if a member receives a substantial private benefit by attending a meeting, so long as that member enhances the profile of British Columbia by their attendance, they are exempt from Section 7 of the Act. Of course, the Act itself says nothing of the sort, but if you’re making up the rules as you go along why be limited by the ones that already exist?” chided Delaney.

Delaney points out that all an MLA need do in future to avoid a conflict charge is to insist that his or her attendance at any private function was done in their capacity as an MLA, and to say that their attendance was of benefit to their constituents even if the discussions at such a meeting are “off the record” and “never to be disclosed” to the public.

“An MLA could feasibly fly to Hawaii on the public credit card for a weekend “golf tournament and conference” with high profile international businessmen and so long as they talked politics ‘off-the-record’ and the MLA insisted they attended in their official capacity and not in their private capacity, it would be okay,” said Delaney.

“Such a kangaroo ruling only serves to undermine what little trust people have in their democratic institutions. The whole thing is a sham and a waste of taxpayer’s time and funds,” Delaney concluded.

BC First believes the appointment of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner should be subject to final ratification by a “citizen committee” chosen from members of the public at large to guarantee complete independence from government, and that all conflict of interest inquiries should be televised and open to the public to ensure full transparency and accountability at all times.
Positive comments.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 23rd December 2010
Merry Christmas James.
Comment by Stacey Tyers on 20th December 2010
A few things.

Firstly, the issue isn't that the commisioner failed to agree with barry and helmut, it's that he failed to APPLY the legislation. It's an obvious disregard for the law, which just increases the public's mistrust in government and the watchdogs who are SUPPOSE to hold government accountable.

If the watchdogs can't hold them accountable, if the PEOPLE/voters can't seem to hold them accountable, who can? This is a huge problem in our politics and superceeds any particular party. It just so happens the current government has accessed every loop hole there is and when there wasn't any they created their own. The blatant disregard for laws, rules, authority, transperancy and accountability is the larger issue, not which party.

Secondly, the excessive amounts of stays of proceedings are the unprecedented cuts to the legal system. The lack of judges is only one part which is also a direct connection to funding cuts. The fact that there are limited lawyers assisting people through the processes and the expectation that your average citizen should be able to get through the system with a self help guide. ALL relate to funding cuts.

Thirdly, bleeding heart or not, you are quick to judge people, situations and are wholey not diplomatic or fair in those judgements. Allowing average citizens to decide on someone's guilt or innocence who could not even fairly decipher legislation let alone look honestly and fairly at obvious evidence would be a nightmare and beyond.

You can not deem everyone guilty just because you want them to be. You miss much of the gray in your black and white world.
Negative comments.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 20th December 2010
Maybe I have it wrong but I don't think everything a politician does should be paid for by the public. Campbell is asked to go to a meeting of an organization that refuses to answer questions as to its purposes, nor does it disclose the issues dealt with at these meetings. Campbell goes, as you assume on behalf of the BC voter because you say we should pay, BUT he can't disclose what was discussed or what positions he took on our behalf at this secret discussion. He can't even justify why it was important to BC for him to be present.

Sorry, but I think that qualifies him to pay his own way once he agreed to the terms they set for his attendance.

I seem to recall that years ago I and the then Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, John Cashore were invited to visit the Kitlope Valley, compliments of the Haisla. It was a topic of much debate and no one in our caucus had ever been there to see what it was all about.

A certain Reform MP claimed that might put us in a conflict as the fate of the Kitlope had not yet been decided. There was no secrecy; we were not required to sign some non disclosure agreement, nor was the taxpayer required to pay our way. To avoid any suggestion of a conflict we contributed what I seem to recall was $600 to the Haisla in order to neutralize any concern.

So I don't think I am being negative at all. It is only right that Campbell, who unlike us, used taxpayers money, be required to pay it back. The Commissioner opted for the easy, comfortable course and that does not serve the public.
Barry & Helmut
Comment by James Ippel on 19th December 2010
If the commissioner had agreed with you, you would be happy.
As this didn't happen you now have nothing but negative comments about the decision rendered.
If you are so concerned about the Court System, you might want to address the problem of so many charges going to "Stay of Proceedings." because there are not enough Provincial Court Judges in the System.
I have an answer for that. Elect upstanding members of the community to act as Lay Judges, and operate on the system of "Common Sense."
Oops , sorry, that would fly in the face of the BC Civil Liberties Union, and the rest of the bleeding hearts out there.
Make me one of these Judges, and I guarantee that the Court Process will be greatly speeded up, and we won't have a backlog
Honest Commissioners?
Comment by Barry English on 16th December 2010
I was taught to believe that the Conflict of interest commissioner, the Freedom of interest commissioner, the Auditor general , and other "watchdogs" even the courts were put there to keep the people and the government honest. I didn't realize that their main purpose was only to cover the backsides of our officials. Silly me to believe that anything this government did or does was honest. I get more disgusted by the day!
Now if the Premier had been NDP..
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 15th December 2010
...people would be setting their hair on fire in righteous indignation. Interesting to note that the expenses to attend greatly exceeded whatever deal Glen Clark got on his deck..and there was a court case to rule on that one.
Always the Premier
Comment by James on 15th December 2010
“...premier is always the premier until he resigns or is voted out of office..."

Unless he's getting a D.U.I. then it's on his own time.