Not the type of news any politician wants to hear just months ahead of an election, but Stikine NDP MLA Doug Donaldson along with his fellow NDP MLAs were caught up in a political smokescreen.
The B.C. Liberal party issued a press release based on a leaked draft report by the Auditor General John Doyle on the legislative finances, which alluded to the inappropriate funnelling of constituency funds to an NDP slush fund used the funds to advance the party.
“This is of course a highly inaccurate news release and a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from their multiculturalism outreach fiasco,” Donaldson said.
The Liberal press release came just days ahead of the release of the report into the Liberal’s ethnic outreach strategy and later a damning expose in The Province revealing the Liberal government used government resources during the last election in an attempt to advance the interests of the B.C. Liberal Party in swing ridings.
“They used ministerial assistants, people paid through taxpayer dollars, to do [Liberal] party business, not government business,” Donaldson said.
“That type of thing blurs the lines between Liberal party work and government party work.
“That leads to a lot of cynicism.”
The Auditor General released his report on legislative finances last Friday and the report contained no mention of the NDP joint-constituency fund.
“He [John Doyle] said there was no fraudulent behaviour to report,” Donaldson said was the Auditor General’s reply to journalists asking about the NDP joint-constituency fund.
However, NDP caucus chair Shane Simpson, MLA Vancouver-Hastings, in addressing the Auditor General’s original concerns on how the funds were used, said the party would have to consider moving the account.
“The suggestion was that we may, ultimately to meet the concerns of the Auditor General, have to move the account outside of the (legislature) comptroller’s office,” Simpson said.
In the interim, the NDP caucus returned the remaining money, about $1,600 to each constituency office.
Simpson said the NDP originally approached the Auditor General with their plan to pool constituency resources in 2005 when limitations were imposed on constituency resources.
“The [NDP] caucus wanted to see how we could provide better support for the constituency offices,” Simpson said.
For example, Donaldson said, the fund allowed him to join forces with Aboriginal Affairs critic, Scott Fraser, to run advertising providing information to First Nations groups on how to contact their MLAs and what the MLAs have been up to in the legislature.
“I couldn’t have done that type of advertising without our pooled resources,” Donaldson said.
When establishing the fund, the NDP did consult the Auditor General who advised the fund should be placed under the purview of the legislative comptroller.
Unfortunately, the operations within the comptroller’s office were somewhat lax, particularly the tracking of receipts.
Adding to the woes, Simpson said, the Auditor General also noted some of the advice the legislative comptroller offered the NDP caucus was wrong.