B.C.’s New Democrat government faced attacks from critics Monday over whether it bungled accusations by a whistleblower that might have sparked a police investigation into former cabinet minister Jinny Sims.
Opposition Liberal critics zeroed in on emails sent by Kate Gillie — Sims’ former constituency assistant — to senior officials in Premier John Horgan’s office in March. The emails alleged, among other things, that Sims wrote visa application endorsements for some Pakistani citizens in exchange for promised campaign donations, and that some of those people were on a U.S. security watch list.
The allegations prompted an investigation by Horgan’s chief of staff, Geoff Meggs, which Horgan has said concluded there was no wrongdoing.
However, the RCMP is now in the middle of “an investigation being conducted into allegations of criminal wrongdoing against MLA Jinny Sims and other persons unknown,” according to a statement Monday by B.C.’s prosecution service. Prosecution service spokesperson Dan McLaughlin would not comment or confirm whether the police investigation is related to Gillie’s allegations.
Vancouver lawyer Richard Peck is overseeing the probe to ensure it is conducted without political interference.
Sims resigned as citizens’ services minister when the news was made public Friday.
The Liberals used the first day of the legislature’s fall session to accuse senior officials in the NDP and premier’s office of mishandling the original allegations against Sims.
The Opposition sent Gillie’s emails to the RCMP and criminal justice branch May 29. The party followed up with a second letter Sept. 11. The RCMP asked for a special prosecutor on Sept. 30, according to the criminal justice branch.
“The premier and Geoff Meggs were more than happy to tell British Columbians there was absolutely no wrongdoing by his minister,” said Liberal critic Jas Johal. “We raised countless questions for months about the misconduct of the former minister. The premier’s response: ‘Trumped-up charges.’ He even had the NDP caucus lawyer write an intimidation letter to the whistleblower, threatening legal action to defend his minister. Yet here we are months later and the police are now investigating her and others.”
Attorney General David Eby said the government is in the dark. “Nobody on the government side, to my knowledge, knows what the police are investigating,” he told the legislature.
Horgan said it was appropriate for Sims to have stepped down until the police probe is complete. “I don’t know what the allegations are,” Horgan told reporters. “I didn’t know then, and I don’t now. But we acted quickly.”
Liberal MLA Shirley Bond called on Horgan to “release the Meggs report so that British Columbians can know exactly why the premier decided that the minister had apparently done absolutely nothing wrong.”
There is no written Meggs report, Horgan’s office said in a statement.
Meggs and NDP caucus executive director Roseanne Moran reviewed the matter because it concerned a caucus employee. “There was no evidence found to support the allegations in the email,” the premier’s office statement said.
Horgan stood in the legislature in May and called the whistleblower accusations “trumped-up charges about a human resource matter between a former employee and a member of the legislative assembly.”
“My chief of staff did what I directed him to do — ensure that there were no cash transfers taking place,” Horgan told the house May 29. “There were not.”
“I’m confident, based on the work that my chief of staff did, that any of the substantive allegations that have been made are not founded, and I’m comfortable with where we are on that,” Horgan said.
Gillie wrote a March 4 email to the B.C. Office of the Conflict of Interest Commissioner and to Alex MacLennan, deputy cabinet secretary to the premier, outlining allegations based on what she witnessed during her employment.