Friday, November 09, 2012

MLA John van Dongen's call for Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser to recuse himself from investigation of Premier Christy Clark

Full text of Independent MLA John van Dongen's call for Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser to recuse himself from investigation of Premier Christy Clark

Today John van Dongen rightly called on Paul Fraser to remove himself from the investigation into van Dongen's allegations of a conflict of interest against Christy Clark over the BC Rail sale and her role in cabinet at that time.

I am astonished that Fraser did not take that step immediately after receiving van Dongen's request, since Fraser's son John Paul Fraser works for Clark in the Public Affairs Bureau as an Assistant Deputy Minister, worked on her leadership campaign and used to work with Mark Marissen - Clark's ex-husband and father of her child - before that.

Here is the full text of van Dongen's statement to the media today:

(Abbotsford South)
STATEMENT November 9, 2012
Good afternoon. On November 7, 2012 I informed the public that I made a request to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser, asking him to investigate certain activities of Premier Christy Clark in relation to the sale of BC Rail.
I provided to the public full disclosure of every aspect of my submission, including a comprehensive 23-page letter and a binder of 43 supporting documents. The body of work that is represented in my submission involved many months of research on my part, and substantial expense for related legal advice, which I paid out of my own pocket.
I was told by Paul Fraser after my initial communication that it was his preference that we not communicate verbally, not meet face to face and that all communications should be in writing.
I informed the Commissioner that my submission to him was considered complete on October 18, 2012. I was told by Paul Fraser that all aspects of my submission would be provided to Christy Clark, the member of the Legislative Assembly who was the subject of my request for an investigation.
I was never told then, or any time since then, what the process would be for the handling of my request for an investigation. Other than a written acknowledgement, I have had no communication from the Commissioner himself since some time before October 18.
Yesterday afternoon, November 8, I received a confidential phone call alleging that Paul Fraser’s son, John Paul Fraser, works for the government as the assistant deputy minister for strategic planning and public engagement at the government’s public affairs bureau. The same person informed me that John Paul Fraser had known Christy Clark for more than 20 years, had volunteered on her leadership campaign, and at one time worked with Mark Marissen (Clark’s former husband) at Burrard Communications Inc. Mr. Marissen’s name appears in my submission to the Commissioner.
It would be an understatement to say I was stunned by yesterday’s phone call. Nobody had brought these facts to my attention. I did not even know if they were true. I immediately sought legal advice. As a result of discussions with my lawyer, I decided it would be necessary to verify the alleged facts before deciding on my next step.
This morning, I was again taken by surprise. I read in this morning’s Vancouver Sun an article stating that Commissioner Paul Fraser’s son, John Paul Fraser, is indeed working for the government in a senior position. Other details I had been given by yesterday’s caller were confirmed in the Vancouver Sun article. This article further stated that the Commissioner had said “he sees no problem investigating an allegation against Premier Christy Clark, even though he is a longtime friend of Clark and works as a senior official within her government.” Until I read the Vancouver Sun article, I had no idea that the Commissioner had made a decision on this matter or that he had even considered this issue. He certainly never mentioned it to me.
The Conflict of Interest Commissioner is an independent officer of the Legislature who has direct accountability to 85 members of the Legislative Assembly.
The integrity of our conflict of our interest system depends on public confidence in the system’s impartiality. To paraphrase a well-known legal principle which applies not only to judges but to all administrative decision-makers including the Conflict of Interest Commissioner, justice must not only be done, but must manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
As a member of the Legislative Assembly, it is imperative that I have the utmost confidence in the Conflict of Interest Commissioner.
Viewing these facts realistically and practically, and having thought the matter through, I believe there is a reasonable apprehension of bias on the part of the Commissioner.
I must stress that at this time I am not making an allegation that the Commissioner is guilty of actual bias. I am simply saying that there is a basis for a reasonable apprehension of bias on these facts which requires that someone other than Paul Fraser carry out the duties under the Members’ Conflict of Interest Act. As I said, our system requires not only that justice be done, but that justice manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done.
I am troubled by the Commissioner’s failure to disclose these facts to me and seek my input as to whether I considered they raised a “reasonable apprehension of bias.”
I am also troubled by the fact that instead of contacting me, and seeking my input once it was clear that the facts would become public knowledge, the Commissioner decided he could continue to handle my request for an investigation, without asking me whether I considered that the facts raised a “reasonable apprehension of bias” which might disqualify him.
I also think that Premier Clark should have asked the Commissioner to disclose all of these facts to me at the outset so that I could have a meaningful opportunity to consider whether they raise a “reasonable apprehension of bias” which would disqualify the Commissioner.
What if these facts had never come to the public attention until long after the Commissioner’s ruling on my request for an investigation? The public is entitled to have confidence in the integrity of the conflict of interest complaint process. So is the Legislature. So am I.
Accordingly, I will be asking Paul Fraser the Conflict of Interest Commissioner to remove himself from dealing with my request for an investigation.


Anonymous said...

So VanDongen first goes to the Commissioner files a petition for request of inquiry.

Then now he wants that same Commissioner removed.

Quite the story isn't it.

Anonymous said...

eaPerhaps when Mr. VanDongen took the file to Mr. Fraser, he should have informed VanDongen that it would be a "Conflict of Interest" for him to handle this request.(seeing as that is his job, he should no the rules) At that time VanDongen could have taken the files to someone else with authority to handle then. Perhaps a judge or a court. It just seems to me that since this government has been elected and re-elected that things have gone from bad to worse. Perhaps it is time the people and voters of this province were told the truth about what is going on in this province, because it seems that things are starting to "Stink to high heaven" (as the old saying goes) Seems to be cover ups, half truths and outright lies during the last 10 years or so. Sick and disgusted is the way I feel.

DPL said...

Thew guy asked for a inquiry and as I read it the commissioner doesn't seem to want to do one . So what option do you figure the MLA has except to request the guy to step aside? Only in BC! If the NDP were government and a commissioners kid was on staff close to the Premier, the screaming from the Liberals would be huge

Anonymous said...

It is quite the story- especially when a bit of history is taken into consideration.

Brian Revel said...

Van Dongen applied to the Office of the Commissioner of Conflict of Interest to investigate the issue.

Then Van Dongen discovers that the individual occupying that office is himself in a conflict of interest on the issue.

It's not "Quite the story"; it's outrageous that such a conflict could even potentially exist. It's even worse that Van Dongen had to find this out through the media, rather than through the established process, relying on the ethical comportment of the Conflict Commissioner himself- the very ethical consideration the commissioner is paid to enforce on the Legislature.

That should never, ever happen.

How stupid do the contemptible BC Liberals think we are? How ignorant does Paul Fraser wish the world to be?

Because Fraser is in breach of trust for failing to do the most elemental thing in the function of his office -omitting to mention his familial ties to the premier and her ex-husband- he should not only recuse himself from this case, he should resign altogether.

From this point forward, how can we possibly trust him? Come to think about it, in decisions rendered in the past, how can we trust that they aren't tainted with bias as well?

Fraser MUST resign.

Anonymous said...

DPL, there hasn't been any indication that "the commissioner dosn't seem to want to do one". He is obligated to review and see if an inquiry does have merit. That's his job.

Just because a petition for an inquiry is filed does not mean automatically there is going to be one.

VanDongen made a foolish move. He should have called for the Commissioner to step aside first, then once a supplenmentary person was put in charge, should the Commissioner be put side, then begin to petition for an inquiry.

The chain of events (filing for inquiry then calling for the commissioner to step side) was not a smart move and makes VanDongen look foolish.

The only direct way an inquiry can be set is by Cabinet approval.

That could happen with the NDP, but the NDP still has not clearly and distinctly said they would call for an immediate inquiry after they become government.

There's been talk, but actually there is no absolute specifically "yes we will have an inquiry" from Dix, and he has yet to state exactly when and for how long such an inquiry would take place.

I wonder if there is some other motive. A person simply does not put $100,000 into such a thing as court and additional costs simply because he wants to be perceived as a hero.

There has to be another reason.

Kevin said...

Why is anyone surprised? The msm have been awol on the BC Rail file, as it has been absent for any of enumerable scandals swirling around the drain in Victoria. There are too many comfortably connected in the msm to rely on that forum for hard questions. One has only to look where Fraser/Clark went to make the familial connection public. Fraser must resign and an independent inquiry be scheduled immediately.

Anonymous said...

that the BC liberal government is saying net zero for everyone, while giving themselves HUGE raises on top of an already very generous wage/expenses/benefits/pension package.Expect more of this this is just the beginning.Former BC Fiberal senior MLA Collin Hansen will probably sing like a canary, as he was going to when criminal fraud charges are laid in the BC rail sale fraud scandal and the hush money paid paid Basi and Virk hush money to have the whole thing put to bed.The BC Fiberals though six million dollar of taxpayer are money given to lawyer the BC rail sale fraud scandal would go away.When a inquiry is held with subpoena's, That should put premier Christy Clark on a one way ticket to a non extradition treaty country, to avoid jail-time.The BC Fiberals made some party supporters and lobbyist very wealthy.

Anonymous said...

Well don't forget the NDP also voted themselves into that same compensation package.

and tell ya what. Choose what non extradition treaty country she should go to, and tell us you want to go there yourself to look for a suitable place for her to live. We'll pay the fare (coach). But you agree airfare only, no other expenses included.. and.. no resort locations such as the South Pacific, or Caribbean or Mediterranean. and finally about your airfare..

it's one way and you pay all applicable taxes and fees.

e.a.f. said...

I don't expect any body who might be perceived to be in a conflict of interest recuse themselves. They have too much to loose. We all know how well the trial went.

Anonymous said...

Van Dongen's got principles and, like the rest of the province, has been played for a fool by the BC Liberals with respect to BC Rail---that is why he's pursuing the case with his own money.

Van Dongen's 24 page letter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner on BC Rail is a good read and it's posted on his website.

The Liberals obviously think voters are way too stupid to figure things out. Well it's an internet age now and citizens have lots of ways to get and compare information.

Anonymous said...

Sure VanDongen is a hero now.

Was he when he was a BC Liberal?

Of course not.

The hypocrisy is rampant.

Remember for the longest time, VanDogen was one of those evil BC Liberals.