An Ottawa-based watchdog group isn't giving up on its conflict-of-interest complaint against B.C. premier Christy Clark.
Today, Democracy Watch announced that it is appealing a ruling preventing a judicial review of two decisions by Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser.
Last month, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Affleck ruled that Fraser's findings cannot be reviewed because they are merely opinions submitted to the B.C. legislature. According to Affleck's ruling, Fraser's decisions have no legal consequence unless the legislature acts on them.
“It is dangerously undemocratic for B.C. to have an ethics law that politicians can ignore, and an ethics commissioner who is an unaccountable czar," Democracy Watch cofounder Conacher stated in a news release, "and so B.C.’s political ethics law must be changed to ensure the commissioner’s rulings are binding and that court challenges of the commissioner’s rulings and the commissioner’s conflicts of interest are allowed.”
In 2016 Fraser dismissed two complaints about Clark over her $50,000 salary from the B.C. Liberal party, which was paid from party donations. Clark also receives a $193,000 salary from taxpayers as premier and as the MLA for Westside-Kelowna.
Fraser's son is a deputy minister in the B.C. Liberal government, overseeing government communications and public engagement.
In 2012, the conflict commissioner stepped aside from ruling on a complaint against then cabinet minister John van Dongen after it was reported that his son was handling communications for the premier and other top officials.
Conacher maintained that Fraser should have also stepped aside from ruling on the two complaints against the premier in 2016.
“The court unfortunately decided that no one can challenge Commissioner Fraser’s unethical decision that it is legal and ethical for Premier Clark and Liberal cabinet ministers to sell access to themselves at high-priced, invite-only secretive fundraising events, and that the events don’t create any conflicts of interest," Conacher said in the news release.
Democracy Watch is represented by Vancouver lawyer Jason Gratl.