BC Liberals, led by Kootenay East MLA and Minister of Community, Sport and Cultural Development Bill Bennett are crying foul over what they say is a leaked report from the Auditor General revealing that the NDP created a kickback scheme to funnel money from individual constituency office accounts to a secret account held in Victoria by the NDP Caucus.
Minister Bennett says the report came to him from a member of the media.
He says that money for constituency offices is held in trust by MLAs and is intended, in accordance with the “Members Manual” to be used for the operations of an MLA office only.
Each NDP MLA agreed to pay $200 per month into the secret fund, Bennett says, and that means that every NDP MLA agreed to short his or her constituents by $2,400 a year, money that should be used to serve constituents, helping them solve problems, to pay staff, rent premises, etc.
“This is a kickback scheme,” Bennett said. “This is a scheme that uses money that’s intended for constituency offices around this province … your NDP MLA thought that it was okay to send back $200 a month to the caucus for politically partisan reasons, rather than using that money to look after your constituents.”
“All NDP MLAs have done this including Norm Macdonald,” said Columbia River Revelstoke BC Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok. “They have willingly taken $2,400 a year since 2006 out of the monies they are given to run their constituency operations. Each had to sign off personally as they are the only ones that can approve the use of these monies and release them to the Party.”
Columbia River Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald doesn’t deny the existence of the account, and says the NDP asked the Legislative Comptroller if the account was allowed and were told it was.
“The fund was set up and it was intended for outreach in constituencies where language was an issue,” Macdonald said. “We pooled resources for things like Chinese New Year events. The fund paid someone to do translations and advise on communicating in a different language. It centralized resources.”
Macdonald says that although the Legislative Comptroller said the fund was okay, the Auditor General did not agree.
“He didn’t like funds being carried over year to year,” Macdonald said. “The fund was discontinued when the Auditor General didn’t agree with the comptroller.”
Bennett says the money was used to pay a political operative, one Gabrielle Yui, a former NDP candidate.
“This is a diversion from some very serious issues facing the BC Liberals,” Macdonald said. “First of all, the document isn’t leaked — this is something that was given to all members of the Legislature. For the BC Liberals, Mr. Bennett in particular, these are desperate times. They are trying to change the channel.”