The New York Times identifies the fossil industry as one of the beneficiaries in an article last week that headlines British Columbia as “the ‘wild west’ of Canadian political cash,” citing a quote from Democracy Watch founder Duff Conacher.
The story describes a political culture in which Premier Christy Clark receives a stipend of up to C$50,000 per year, on top of her $195,000-per-year salary, supplied by her party and funded by political donations. And where there is no limit on those donations, making the rules in B.C. much less stringent than in other provinces.
“Personal enrichment from the handouts of wealthy donors, some of whom have paid tens of thousands of dollars to meet with her at private party fundraisers?” the Times writes. “No conflict of interest here, according to a pair of rulings last year by the province’s conflict-of-interest commissioner—whose son works for Ms. Clark.”
And the Times connects the dots back to Clark’s decision last week to lift her province’s objections to Kinder Morgan’s controversial Trans Mountain pipeline expansion. “Political donation records show that Kinder Morgan and other oil industry supporters of the project had donated more than 718,000 Canadian dollars, about US$546,000, to the B.C. Liberal party through March 2016,” notes correspondent Dan Levin.
Democracy Watch has gone to court to challenge the finding of no conflict of interest, the Times reports, arguing that there is a “reasonable apprehension of bias” because of the family connection between conflict commissioner Paul Fraser and his son, John Paul Fraser, who worked on Clark’s campaign and now serves as her government’s deputy minister for government communications and public engagement.
“The elder Mr. Fraser ruled in May that his son’s boss did not violate the act by accepting tens of thousands of dollars from her party while attending exclusive party fundraisers, despite the law prohibiting actions by officials that may create even the ‘reasonable perception’ that they might be affected by private interests,” the Times notes. “Democracy Watch asked the provincial Supreme Court in October to overturn the ruling, arguing that the commissioner should have recused himself, as he did in a 2012 case against Ms. Clark.”