Many Vancouverites spotted a plane flying over the city on May 3 towing a banner with a message: “Vote no to the TransLink tax.”
The leader of the No campaign, Canadian Taxpayers Federation B.C. director Jordan Bateman, said in a news release that his side had to be creative because Lower Mainland mayors won’t allow signs on public property.
However, Bateman did not reveal that a former B.C. Liberal operative facing three charges under the Election Act has been raising money for his organization, which is funding the No campaign.
Last year, special prosecutor David Butcher laid the charges after Brian Bonney had allegedly not disclosed donating the services of Sepideh Sarrafpour to a B.C. Liberal by-election campaign in Port Moody–Coquitlam in 2012.
The president and CEO of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Troy Lanigan, confirmed in a phone interview with the Georgia Straight that Bonney has been under contract with his organization since August 2013 as a fundraiser.
“He absolutely does a fantastic job,” Lanigan said. “I have nothing but good things to say about Brian.”
According to Lanigan, Bonney’s work includes visiting donors to explain the group’s different campaigns. Lanigan explained that although the Canadian Taxpayers Federation has donated money to the No campaign, other funds were raised through a dedicated website.
“We had to set up separate accounts for the No side because we were anticipating that there would be rules and regulations around the governance of the campaign,” he revealed. “As it turns out, there’s none. So, you know, it didn’t matter. Nonetheless, we’ve raised funds for that specific account.”
The former B.C. Liberal director of field operations, Mark Robertson, faces three Election Act charges in connection with the by-election campaign. He and Bonney are directors of Mainland Communications, which has also been charged. The accused are scheduled to be in provincial court on May 16. Bonney didn’t respond by deadline to the Straight’s emailed request for an interview.
Lanigan criticized the cost of the investigation, noting that 17 police officers were mentioned in documents. “This is what we’re doing with law-enforcement resources in British Columbia? Chasing around whether someone volunteered or was paid for a losing by-election.…I mean, this is obscene,” Lanigan said. “It’s absolutely ridiculous.”
Meanwhile, the executive director of the government watchdog group Integrity B.C., Dermod Travis, told the Straight by phone that Bonney has the right to earn a living and deserves the presumption of innocence. However, Travis said that nobody should prejudge the special prosecutor’s work. “The investigation is still continuing,” Travis said. “He’s a highly respected lawyer in British Columbia and, undoubtedly, he’s making the appropriate calls as he proceeds with his work.”
In Bonney’s previous work as the B.C. Liberal government’s communications director for multiculturalism, he was at the centre of the 2013 “ethnic-gate scandal”. The premier’s deputy minister, John Dyble, wrote a report noting that Bonney had spent half his time on the public payroll doing party work. As a result, the B.C. Liberals repaid $70,000 to the provincial treasury.
“It’s no surprise to us that governments waste money and that there’s lots of partisan politicking going on in those offices in Victoria—the same as there are in other provincial capitals and federally,” Lanigan said. “You know, Brian’s not doing that work anymore. And when Brian was doing that work, he was working under the direction of his superiors. I’m glad that Brian has found much more principled and rewarding work doing what he’s doing with us rather than doing it there.”
Travis noted that Bonney announced his resignation as CEO of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association of B.C. in the wake of the Dyble report. A CHBA release said Bonney quit because it “compromised his ability to work in the best interest of the residential-construction industry”.
“Given that the Dyble report is still there [and] given that charges have been laid, how can he see it being in the best interest of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation to be in their employ at this time?” Travis said.
Bonney has been a long-time ally of Premier Christy Clark after unsuccessfully challenging her for the B.C. Liberal nomination in Port Moody–Burnaby Mountain in 1995. Seven years later, Bonney lost the mayoral race in Burnaby to Derek Corrigan.
Bonney was a business partner and campaign manager of former B.C. Liberal MLA Harry Bloy, who was the only caucus member to support Clark’s B.C. Liberal leadership bid in 2011.