Conflict commish: “Let’s continue to ignore all of his requests.”

Paul Fraser, dad of BC Liberal government's propaganda chief, snubs reporter

This column is about eight simple words. It requires some context to get there.

While Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump voice their concerns about United States political campaign financing from opposite ends of the political spectrum, a March 28 Globe and Mail column by Gary Mason, “Pricey meetings with premier fuel B.C. Liberal fundraising machine,” reignited debate in British Columbia on big money in politics.

Mason revealed that Premier Christy Clark had appeared at exclusive, big bucks party fundraisers. It appeared as if the party was selling access to the premier, for up to $20,000-a-pop. In B.C., unlike other jurisdictions, the sky’s the limit when it comes to political donations and the BC Liberals have refused to set maximums. The BC Liberals dipped below $10 million in donations last year, but still out-raised the B.C. NDP by a three-to-one ratio.

Democracy Watch’s Duff Conacher (March 31) and the B.C. NDP’s David Eby (April 1) complained separately to Paul Fraser, B.C.’s conflict of interest commissioner, about the Clark fundraisers. Fraser agreed the following week to investigate and render a single report.

Fraser the father
Fraser the father

I called Fraser’s office on April 7. To my surprise, he answered. He was not interested in taking my questions, but, before he abruptly hung up the phone up on me, he claimed to have no recollection of ever donating to the BC Liberals. I had pointed out the listings in the Elections BC database for a Paul Fraser who gave $300 in 2006.

I was also trying to ask why he figured he was fit to investigate the Conacher and Eby complaints in 2016 after admitting his own apparent conflict of interest after a 2012 complaint by John van Dongen. A “familial connection” in 2012 caused Fraser to reluctantly refer the report to an out-of-province commissioner. Fraser’s son, John Paul, is Premier Christy Clark’s Deputy Minister of Government Communications and Public Engagement. The younger Fraser’s job is to use tens of millions of taxpayer dollars between elections to help Clark convince the public that the BC Liberals are doing a good job. Bluntly stated, John Paul Fraser is Clark’s propaganda chief. The longer the Liberals stay in power, the better it is for him.

I followed that short phone call with an email, to which Fraser replied the next day. I included that response in my April 16 story for The Tyee. Fraser gave a vague explanation of the efforts taken by his office to separate him from those donations. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and carried his denial. I know first-hand about mistaken identity; my father and I share the same name.

On Sept. 29, 2006, a person named Paul Fraser donated $290 to the BC Liberals. On the same day, Fraser Milner Casgrain, the law firm where Fraser was a partner before he became commissioner in 2007, donated $2,000 to the party. I still want to give him the opportunity to clear the air. Where was he on Sept. 29, 2006? Could he, perhaps, consult his calendar and bank statements?

I called the commissioner’s office to follow-up my April 8 email and left a message with his receptionist. I did not receive a response.

Fraser the son
Fraser the son

Fast forward to May 4, when Fraser’s opinion was tabled in the Legislature. He cleared Clark of the conflict of interest allegations. It does not appear that he used his powers under section 21 of the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act to order Clark to testify under oath or show him documents about the controversial, yet legal, BC Liberal fundraisers mentioned in Mason’s column.

I sent Fraser a list of questions on May 5 and, after receiving no reply, I re-sent it on May 6. I always prefer a one-on-one interview, but when the subject is not co-operating and it is a last resort, then I will reluctantly send email.

I still sought answers to the donation issue as well as the matter of his 2012 recusal. But, Paul Fraser made a startling revelation that seemed to be for someone else’s eyes.

At 11:40 a.m. on May 6, I received an email from Paul Fraser that simply said: “Let’s continue to ignore all of his requests.” I called his office and was told he was not there. I fired off a quick email to him, wondering politely why he wanted to ignore my reasonable, public interest questions. I also decided to share his response with the world. It garnered more than 50,000 impressions on Twitter.

The full email is below, including Fraser’s unfortunate, ill-conceived response. Below that, you will find those Elections BC filings, with an emphasis on the 2006 donations.

My questions still stand and I would welcome Fraser’s call.

I’m not holding my breath. My Tyee colleague, Andrew MacLeod, tried unsuccessfully to rouse Fraser.

Fraser’s duty is ultimately to the public as one of  the Legislature’s official watchdogs.  He is entrusted to keep our elected officials from mixing private interests with their very important public responsibilities.

While I can be amused by Fraser’s May 6 email response, those who pay his $270,000-a-year salary should not be.

Mobile users, click here >> Paul Fraser: “Let’s continue to ignore all of his requests.” by BobMackin

Mobile users, click here >> Elections BC – Frasers by BobMackin

7 thoughts on “Conflict commish: “Let’s continue to ignore all of his requests.”

  1. Lew

    I suggest a complaint to the Ombudsperson under section 10(1)(b) of the Ombudsperson Act:
    10 (1) The Ombudsperson, with respect to a matter of administration, on a complaint or on the Ombudsperson’s own initiative, may investigate
    (a) a decision or recommendation made,
    (b) an act done or omitted, or
    (c) a procedure used
    by an authority that aggrieves or may aggrieve a person.

    The Conflict Commissioner is an authority under Schedule section 2(a) of the Act.

  2. Glen P. Robbins

    The complaint to the Ombudspersons office is correct, but should also include the fact that the stipulated rationale of “allowance” in relation to the $50,000 per year paid by the BC Liberal Party is ultra vires the Conflict Commissioners jurisdiction. The language of allowance relevant to MLA’s pertains to the Capital (Victoria) when they attend to the BC Legislatures. The Income Tax Act (Canada) considers allowances as discretionary in matters relating to charities or public institutions but only outside the jurisdiction of the office of the aforesaid entities. To wit: The BC Liberal Party is located in Vancouver. Expenses might be derived to attend to functions outside the Metro Region. The riding she actually represents is in Kelowna while her home is in Vancouver. The only conceivable allowance available to to her under the Income Tax Act (unrelated to the Commissioner) might be to a fund raiser she spent money travelling to say Fort St John. However for this to a valid allowance she would have had to consistently go there over these years. Moreover no person who is a director of the charity or public institution can claim allowance. If Christy has claimed the $50,000 on her personal tax filings as allowance she would not have paid any taxes of these monies, but would have made a fraudulent personal income tax filing. Accordingly, Mr. Fraser’s determination has by legal inference put Christy Clark’s personal tax filings in question. On the other hand if Christy Clark declared this $50,000 as income as she rightly should have, she would have protected herself under the Income Tax Act, but would then be classified as receiving income from a party which she leads, and must sign all important party documents on behalf of. In this instance the public interest would have to question whether or not Christy obtained the additional income as an employee using her leadership status inappropriately for financial gain.

  3. e.a. foster

    In my opinion the B.C. Lieberals and Christy Clark are morally and ethically bankrupt or at least they seem to be. who knows perhaps they know what they are doing is wrong and just don’t care. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

    If the $20K a head soiree’s is causing the B.C. Lieberals and Christy Clark to make their decisions, I am sorely disappointed. They ought to be charging more for selling us and this province down the river.

    My concern is not just that they are charging this $20K but that the offer goes out to only a “select few”. If I were to put up the $20K for you and or Laila Yuille or for good fun, RossK and Norm Farrell, you would most likely not be permitted to attend and “talk” to the premier. Its not just about the money, its about who actually gets in. Can you imagine if the head of the Poverty Reduction attended one of these soiree’s and were to ask Christy a few questions about child poverty and brought along a child living at 50% below the poverty line.

  4. Bigman

    The behaviour is shameful and he should resign – Period. How can he be trusted to do his job professionally? I’d also like to know who else he is referring to when he says “Let’s”. Don’t let him get away with this Bob! Keep up the good work.

  5. Hawgwash

    “Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone…” From a dumb ass.
    Aside from being quite disturbing, it is somewhat comical.

  6. D. M. Johnston

    A government of ‘grifters’, by ‘grifters’, for ‘grifters’.

    It is a government which is on the take on steroids.

    The BC Liberals have ushered in an era of despotic government, fueled by corruption without any moral compass, a perfect Libertarian government where one buys political favours and those who cannot, adios.

  7. Glen P. Robbins

    The BC Ombudsperson does not take appeals from the Conflict Commissioner as both are of equal authority, they should not be. Why did the BC NDP approve this man in the first place – knowing the legal issues pertaining to CRA his law firm was involved with?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *