B.C. Liberal caucus chief launches parallel investigation into ethnic voting plan

The chairman of the B.C. Liberal caucus has launched his own review into a multicultural ethnic outreach scandal, saying he has a moral obligation to investigate how taxpayer resources were used in the scandal.

Liberal MLA Gordon Hogg, who chairs the 45-person government caucus, said he launched the review because he has “a fiduciary responsibility to be able to respond to my caucus that the funds allocated for the purposes of caucus — work, research, communications — has been handled appropriately.”

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Hogg’s investigation will parallel that of Premier Christy Clark’s deputy minister, John Dyble, who launched his own review last week.

Hogg said he’ll have full access to caucus records and employees, an authority the Opposition NDP has said Dyble lacks.

The leaked multicultural outreach documents appear to show staff in government ministries, the premier’s office and Liberal caucus collaborating to use government resources to help drum up voter support in ethnic communities for the B.C. Liberal Party.

Government staffers, and caucus workers, aren’t supposed to do partisan political work on taxpayer time, or using public resources.

The government caucus is the support system for Liberal MLAs, and includes assistants, legislative offices and communications officials. Taxpayers spent almost $7 million last year for caucus support services for NDP and Liberal MLAs.

Caucus records aren’t public, nor are they subject to freedom of information legislation.

The multicultural document names numerous caucus officials as having apparent roles in the ethnic plan, including outreach director Lorne Mayencourt, executive director Primrose Carson, research director Blair Phelps and former communications officials Stephen Harris and Jeff Melland.

Carson is the top official in caucus, but Hogg said she ultimately reports to him.

“I’m doing this because I think it’s my responsibility, morally and ethically, as the chair of caucus to be able to answer the questions of my caucus colleagues,” Hogg said.

When asked if he would discipline caucus officials, Hogg said, “I have a responsibility to follow through on anything that might come out of that [review].”

Hogg has tapped Liberal MLAs Murray Coell and Rob Howard to help him conduct the investigation. Neither Coell nor Howard is seeking re-election.

Hogg said all political parties have used outreach methods in multicultural communities. But there’s a “tight line” with respect to caucus officials doing political party work.

“Our concern, is whether or not any of that has been used for strictly partisan purposes. For instance, would that have been used for fundraising or signing members? And that’s part of what’s floating out there.”

The caucus investigation should be finished next week, Hogg said.

Dyble’s report is also expected around the same time, and will be released publicly. The premier has promised to take any disciplinary action necessary in the wake of Dyble’s report.

NDP house leader John Horgan said it’s still inadequate because neither review looks at the role of B.C. Liberal Party officials in the plan.

Horgan said the Opposition stands by its call for an independent third-party investigation of the scandal, a suggestion the premier has rejected.

rshaw@timescolonist.com

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