The two men charged under the Election Act in connection with the Liberal government’s ethnic outreach scandal will likely go to trial in the summer or early fall, according to the special prosecutor overseeing the case.
David Butcher, along with lawyers for former communications staffer and Liberal organizer Brian Bonney and party employee Mark Robertson, appeared in Vancouver provincial court on Thursday. The case was postponed until Feb. 26 to give defence lawyers time to review a disclosure from the Crown they received Wednesday.
Lawyer Greg DelBigio, who represents Robertson, said he had not yet had a chance to review the disclosure, but reiterated that his client intends to plead not guilty and fight the charges. He would not say whether his client remains employed by the Liberal party.
The charges under the Election Act involve an alleged failure to disclose a $2,240 campaign contribution to the Liberal party during a byelection in Port Moody-Coquitlam in February 2012. The byelection was won by NDP candidate and former Port Moody mayor Joe Trasolini. The money was allegedly used to facilitate the hiring of Sepideh Sarrafpour, the former government caucus employee at the centre of the ethnic outreach scandal, to work on Liberal candidate Dennis Marsden’s campaign.
The ethnic outreach scandal gripped the Liberal party in 2013, amid allegations that government and party officials used taxpayer-funded resources to try to drum up support in ethnic communities for the Liberal government’s re-election bid.
After the party won another majority in May 2013, then-Opposition NDP leader Adrian Dix announced he had given the RCMP new information in the case.
The government then announced Butcher’s appointment as special prosecutor.
An internal review of the scandal by John Dyble, deputy minister to Premier Christy Clark, found that numerous public officials breached standards of conduct and misused government resources in preparing a multicultural outreach plan that targeted ethnic voters.
Butcher would not say whether more charges are forthcoming.