Van Dongen hits back at Liberal accusation he leaked to bloggers

Former Solicitor General John van Dongen has accused his former party of making false allegations he leaked caucus information to political bloggers, in order to intimidate others who may also be thinking of defecting from the troubled party.

B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman said Sunday on a CKNW talk show there is "no question" van Dongen leaked information to bloggers, although he did not say who.

van Dongen left the Liberals and announced his intent to join the B.C. Conservatives a week ago. He is currently sitting as an independent.

van Dongen told Metro this is the first time in 17 years with the party he's been accused of leaking caucus information, and the timing is no coincidence.

"I haven't experienced any caucus discipline over something like this," he said.

"There has been the odd occasion over many years where there has been a general concern, but I've never been confronted specifically on it myself, so [for Coleman] to make these sort of general allegations is just not acceptable."

In his shock resignation announcement, Van Dongen cited the failed B.C. Place naming rights deal, $6 million spent on B.C. Rail legal fees and a lack of accountability as reasons for crossing the floor. He has hired North Vancouver lawyer Roger McConchie to look into why Liberals forgave millions in legal fees for Dave Basi and Bobby Virk after they pleaded guilty to breach of trust charges in the B.C. Rail case in 2010.

"To suggest that I've breached caucus confidentiality, that's the government's response to my concerns about the legal fees deal in B.C. Rail, the fact that it was done contrary to public policy. That's just a continuation of an intimidation campaign, both against me and other MLAs," van Dongen said. "These are legitimate questions that I'm asking."

Some political insiders have speculated Coleman may have been referring to van Dongen's relationship with prominent political blogger Alex Tsakumis, but Tsakumis took to his blog Sunday to vehemently deny van Dongen has ever been the source of a leak.

"Van Dogen, first of all, was neutralized a long time ago after he resigned as Solicitor General, according to my other sources in caucus, so what information is he going to give me? He doesn't have any!" Tsakumis said. "They never talked about much in caucus anyway. The way it was run, top-down, everything was handled in cabinet."

Tsakumis added he thinks Coleman's comments will backfire, and the party will soon see other MLAs cross the floor to join John Cummins' Conservatives.

"I just think van Dongen's resignation really hit them hard, and they're having an extremely hard time holding together other members of caucus, and it's also an intimidation tactic, right?" he said. "If they treat van Dongen really hard and really harshly they think that others will think twice to leave. But the others will go, I guarantee you."

Rich Coleman's office said Monday the minister was unavailable for comment, but that he might be able to answer questions about his accusations against van Dongen later in the week.