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NDP, BC Liberals work to get ahead of campaign fundraising investigation

Byng Giraud, left, who contributed to both the BC Liberals and the NDP in his own name while working as an in-house lobbyist for a liquefied natural gas proponent, said in a statement on Tuesday he can’t comment while the RCMP investigation continues.

Darryl Dyck/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The BC New Democratic Party has returned cash to two donors – worth less than $10,000 – after an internal review going back to 2013 found it had accepted improper political contributions.

The governing BC Liberal Party says it is still reviewing whether it has received any prohibited contributions, more than a week after The Globe and Mail reported that the party collected tens of thousands of dollars in multiple donations from lobbyists who made indirect donations – which are prohibited – by paying under their own names on behalf of clients and companies before they were reimbursed.

Both parties are working to get ahead of a police investigation into campaign contributions triggered by The Globe report. The BC Liberal Party still lists donations on its disclosure forms from two lobbyists who have confirmed they had made indirect contributions.

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One of those lobbyists, Mark Jiles, said earlier this month he has contacted the Liberal Party about his mistakes and has asked that the records be corrected about the real donors on whose behalf he has made donations.

Byng Giraud, who contributed to both the BC Liberals and the NDP in his own name while working as an in-house lobbyist for a liquefied natural gas proponent, said in a statement on Tuesday he can't comment while the RCMP investigation continues.

"Woodfibre LNG Limited and I have made donations, including the purchase of tickets to fundraisers, to various political parties and candidates," Mr. Giraud wrote in an e-mail. "Woodfibre LNG and I have always been up front and transparent in reporting any donations. We will co-operate fully with any investigation."

Records from the BC Liberals and Elections BC show Mr. Jiles has donated $68,209 to the Liberals, in 89 donations under his own name, since 2011. He also made a single donation of $300 to the NDP four years ago.

Mr. Giraud gave $47,149 to the Liberal Party in 20 payments in the same period and donated $7,500 to the NDP, in two payments, in 2015.

Glen Sanford, deputy director of the NDP, said in an interview the party has returned two indirect donations that he said were made in error, and it has notified Elections BC of the changes.

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One donation of $7,250 had been attributed to an individual donor who bought tickets to a fundraiser and was later reimbursed by their employer, the United Food and Commercial Workers union. The second donation, for $1,500, was made by an employee of Pacific NorthWest LNG, who was then reimbursed by the company.

"Our practice has always been, when people buy tickets to events, if there was any possibility they were getting reimbursed, we always pro-actively reached out to make sure the rules were followed. Two fell through the cracks in a four-year period. And we have taken steps to fix that," Mr. Sanford said.

However, there are two other donations that the NDP has queried, but the donors have refused to answer questions. The donations, combined, are worth $3,750.

"There isn't anything we can do about it. The ball is in their court. The truth is, it is the donors who need to let us know if this was an appropriate donation or not," Mr. Sanford said.

Under B.C.'s Election Act, parties that discover improper donations must return them within 30 days of learning about them.

British Columbia has some of the most unrestricted campaign finance laws in the country. The province permits unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and foreign agents.

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Those rules allowed the BC Liberals to raise more money in 2016 – $12.4-million – than any other provincial party in power across Canada. But after a year of questions about the party's fundraising tactics, Premier Christy Clark on Monday promised she would set up an independent panel to review the province's campaign finance laws if she wins re-election on May 9.

Emile Scheffel, spokesman for the BC Liberal Party, said in a statement Tuesday the party is still working on its review of indirect donations, but he would not say if any money has been returned.

"Our work to review and remedy the issues raised by The Globe and Mail remains under way. We refund or forfeit any donations as required by the [Election] Act, and will continue to do so," he said. "We won't be commenting on specific cases at this time, except to say that any individual or organization that believes a contribution was made in error should contact us."

With a report from Kathy Tomlinson

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About the Author
B.C. politics reporter

Based in the press gallery of the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, Justine has followed the ups and downs of B.C. premiers since 1988. She has also worked as a business reporter and on Parliament Hill covering national politics. More

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