'Jail is required': Crown seeks 1-2 years in B.C. Liberal 'quick wins' scheme
In breach of trust sentencing, defence lawyers for ex-B.C. Liberal operations director Brian Bonney argues he was directed by higher-ups, not for 'dishonesty' or fiscal gain.
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A lingering spectre from ex-Premier Christy Clark's B.C. Liberal government returned to haunt the province Tuesday as the so-called "quick wins" scandal hit the courts.
The Crown is seeking a 12- to 23-month sentence for Brian Bonney, a former British Columbia public servant who pleaded guilty to breach of trust for using his taxpayer role to illegally recruit B.C. Liberal support from ethnic communities.
Bonney, who at the same time was the B.C. Liberals' operations director and a regional director, admitted to the charges in October — but his defence lawyer countered he should serve his time in the community under house arrest.
"Jail is required," argued special prosecutor David Butcher. "… The court should send a strong and clear message to those involved in politics that breaches of trust will be treated in a serious manner … The conduct by the accused in this case … at times bore characteristics of dishonesty and corruption."
Defence counsel Ian Donaldson said Bonney — a longtime political operative for the B.C. Liberals who once lost a riding nomination race against former Premier Christy Clark — was directed by others in the illegal scheme, and not out of "dishonesty" or financial gain.
The scheme, as outlined by the Crown, involved Bonney using his taxpayer public office role to boost support for the B.C. Liberals and Clark from "ethnic communities" by outreach staff under his command.
"Bonney directed all of these individuals to engage in partisan political activity and provide confidential information to them," Butcher argued. "They were to recruit support from various ethnic communities that were considered essential to electoral success, particularly in swing ridings."
Using a public office to do partisan activities is prohibited by law and by Bonney's employment contract as a civil servant. After the scandal came to light in 2013 after being leaked to media, then B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix filed a complaint to the RCMP, sparking a high-level investigation that led to Bonney's charges — and eventually the resignation of B.C. Liberal minister of state for multiculturalism, John Yap, who was in charge at the time of the illegal "quick wins" scheme.
But Donaldson, said that while his guilty plea for breach of trust stems from activities he admits to, the motivation behind them should be taken into consideration, since he had no personal financial gain.
"Bonney's actions which give rise to the guilty plea are not actions that give rise out of pecuniary benefit or dishonesty in any traditional sense of that word or corruption," Donaldson told the court. "What happened here was a breach of his employment terms."
But the Crown countered that Bonney was a veteran "political operative" who had been involved in politics since the 1980s and fully knew what he was doing. It said a strict sentence of 12-23 months would be required as "deterrence" to future political operatives.
"It is clear that Mr. Bonney was not the architect of this scheme," Butcher agreed. "… He was not in overall control of the direction that was undertaken.
"But he’s a very experienced political operative; he’s not a naïve man."
Bonney's sentencing is scheduled for three days, with operatives from both B.C. Liberals and the B.C. NDP observing the proceedings.
Exposed in 2013, the so-called "quick wins" scandal saw taxpayer resources — meant only for government, not partisan, business — put to B.C. Liberal efforts to woo various immigrant communities for instance by apologizing for historical wrongs, which were labeled ethnic "quick wins" in the ballot box, such as the Chinese Head Tax and Komagata Maru incident.
The scheme was outlined in the party'sMulticultural Strategic Outreach Plan. However it is forbidden to use public money for partisan gain, and at least six government staffers were alleged to have been involved. Several also resigned in the scandal's aftermath.