Rafe: Of course Christy Clark is guilty of conflict of interest…so is Commissioner Fraser

Premier Christy Clark at her government's LNG conference (Province of BC/Flickr)
Premier Christy Clark at her government’s LNG conference (Province of BC/Flickr)

The term “conflict of interest” poses difficulties for many people. That’s because lawyers make money by confusing simple things. If one has a public duty and private interest in the same area as that public duty, it’s a conflict, plain and simple. It does not mean that this person is a crook or making illegal profits, although they’re not excused if they do, just that they mustn’t be in a position where they can do so. There is no presumption of innocence involved – just conflicting interests.

Quid Pro Quo

Martyn Brown, former aide to both Premiers Christy Clark and Campbell, recently stated:

[quote]No corporation, no industry, no union gives the level of money that they give to politicians without expecting special consideration in return, and they do get it…For the Liberals, the housing industry, construction industry, real estate, the liquor industry, energy industry, certainly the mining industry, big forest industry — all gave exceptional amounts of money, and they got exceptional attention.[/quote]

Clark caught in the Act

The Members Conflict of Interest Act seems easy to understand:

[quote]2 (1) For the purposes of this Act, a member has a conflict of interest when the member exercises an official power or performs an official duty or function in the execution of his or her office and at the same time knows that in the performance of the duty or function or in the exercise of the power there is the opportunity to further his or her private interest. [Emphasis added – RM][/quote]

2 (2) defines “apparent” conflict of interest, but since the greater includes the lesser, it’s irrelevant in my view.

Premier Clark raises large sums for the direct benefit of herself and her government from those who thrive on benefits from the government she leads. What is even remotely confusing about that? Her actions are clearly covered by 2(1)

Is that hard to grasp?

Playing dumb

Commissioner Paul Fraser
Commissioner Paul Fraser

Apparently it is for Conflicts Commissioner Paul Fraser who said, “I am unable to conclude that the donations received by the Liberal Party in the circumstances described amount to a ‘private interest’ for the premier.”

Let me get this straight. The party and the premier need money so they can get elected and Clark can get paid $195,000 per year and perks. She goes to fundraisers, using her considerable ability to raise money from people who want favours in exchange. The Liberal Party, including the generous donors that benefit so hugely, pay Ms. Clark an extra $50,000 per year for her services.

According to Mr. Fraser, Clark is not acting as premier when she attracts all those wealthy patrons with open wallets, but as a politician!

Really! If all the Liberal Party needed was a politician, they could use Rich Coleman. They don’t use Coleman because, even if he covered himself with molasses, he couldn’t draw flies, let alone wealthy ones.

Commissioner in his own conflict?

I remember you when you were smart, Paul. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, since you don’t think that the fact of your son’s long and close friendship with Clark and that he is a politically appointed Deputy-Minister in her government places you in a conflict of interest! Hell, Paul, you’re probably right. I mean, who would ever dream that a lawyer making $269,000 a year from a legislature made up largely of Liberals would consider it in his interest to keep those Liberals kindly disposed towards him?

Governor General in same boat

This entire area of the behaviour of our “betters” reeks with hypocrisy. You will remember the story of lawyer David Johnston, in a decision that defied belief, rescued Brian Mulroney from questions on his taking a bag full of money from a crook in a New York hotel room in the middle of the night and, then, by one of those amazing coincidences Canadian politics are known for, was appointed Governor General of Canada by the Stephen Harper – who had put him in charge of the Mulroney investigation and was relieved as hell that Mulroney couldn’t blab.

That story brought forth a response to criticism of Johnston, from Andrew Coyne in MacLean’s, who said:

[quote]”It’s true that it was Johnston, as adviser to the Prime Minister on the terms of reference for the Oliphant inquiry, who recommended against including the Airbus scandal in its mandate, a decision that looks all the more baffling in light of the judge’s findings: not only that Brian Mulroney took hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, shortly after leaving office, from the very man from whom he was accused of taking bribes while in office, but that he lied about it, up to and including his appearance before the inquiry. Regardless of whether Mulroney was personally involved, the circumstances surrounding the Airbus deal are so suspicious that, even 22 years later, they cry out for an inquiry — not in spite of the passage of time but because of it. Johnston’s reasoning, that Airbus, having once been the subject of an RCMP investigation, was “well-tilled ground,” is simply unsupported by the facts: the RCMP had only just begun their investigation when it was shut down by the leaking of the infamous “Swiss letter,” a calamity from which it never recovered. [Emphasis added – RM][/quote]

For all this clear and severe criticism, Coyne rejected any suggestion that there was a quid pro quo, to clear Lyin’ Brian and become G-G. And maybe there wasn’t but, goddammit, it looked awful.

A different standard

Now yesterday Coyne had this to say about Clark:

[quote]And yet Clark’s only reaction has been to shrug, at all of it: the dinners, the corporate and union donations, her own cut, on the grounds that it has all been disclosed. After all, say her supporters, can you prove there was some quid pro quo? This has things exactly backward. This is not a criminal trial. It is not up to the public to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that their leaders are corrupt. It is up to the premier, as the holder of a public trust, to conduct herself in such a way as to prevent any such suspicion arising. People should not have to wonder about these things, as if integrity in office were just another issue to be weighed against tax cuts and health care. It should be a given. [Emphasis added – RM][/quote]

Couldn’t have said it better myself. My only question is, how come it applies to Christy Clark but didn’t apply to Johnston?

A cynic might suspect that while Coyne doesn’t give a fiddler’s fart if Christy Clark and her supporters don’t like him, he cringes at the thought that the eastern Canadian establishment, upon whom he so clearly depends, might think badly of him and that he might lose his role as the national media suck.

The “Smell Test”

There is a better test for these issues shorn of legalese crap – does it pass the “Smell Test”? What would the folks in the pub say?

An imprecise test to be sure but anyone with half a brain and no conflict of interest themselves would say that both the Johnston/Harper/Mulroney and Christy Clark cases stink to highest heaven and that Andrew Coyne and Paul Fraser ought to repair to the nearest pub and put their conclusions to the smell test.


About Rafe Mair

Rafe Mair, LL.B, LL.D (Hon) a B.C. MLA 1975 to 1981, was Minister of Environment from late 1978 through 1979. In 1981 he left politics for Talk Radio becoming recognized as one of B.C.'s pre-eminent journalists. An avid fly fisherman, he took a special interest in Atlantic salmon farms and private power projects as environmental calamities and became a powerful voice in opposition to them. Rafe is the co-founder of The Common Sense Canadian and writes a regular blog at rafeonline.com.

19 thoughts on “Rafe: Of course Christy Clark is guilty of conflict of interest…so is Commissioner Fraser

  1. Democracy? No. Kleptocracy, Plutocracy, yes. Coleman is the Boss Tweed of BC. The transparent scams he runs, including one with Janice Abbott and his lapdog Shane Ramsay, boggle the mind

  2. Rafe, your writing is better than Shakespeare. Mind you he would have had someone swung a sword or two in his writing. That is much less interesting. Keep on doing it, man!

  3. This BC Liberal Government, Christy Clark and ALL her CRONIES are corrupt to the core! But it seems indicative of all politics everywhere. Here in BC especially though, I am confounded by the apathy of voters (or non voters) and the Liberal Gov’t just capitalize on this, “flying under the radar” or as you say Rafe, they won’t do a single thing unless there’s public unrest with protesters here, willing to go to jail for their convictions. Call me an Idealist but I see a movement happening in the US of disgruntled people, fed up with the same corruption of politics and self-interested corporations and bankers. Mainstream Media there, much like our own, won’t touch it either because they’re “pocketed” and bought. I sense a huge momentum happening there and I’m talking about Bernie Sanders. Do we not have a Politician with some actual GUTS like that, here in BC with Elizabeth May of the Green Party? She’s an excellent Orator, calls out the bad guys on a regular basis and seems to be an HONEST and capable politician amongst so many who are corrupt (LIBS) or inadequate (NDP). I don’t understand why only these two parties seem to be the only ones people consider when they’re voting. Neither one of them have actually WORKED for the people of BC or Canadian politics since I came to this country 26 years ago! Would like to know your thoughts on her as a “Politician for the People”.

  4. Dear Mr. Mair
    I’m not a to sure about this but as far as I know once you are elected to Government and sit in office your time is not nine to five and you really have no time off! You belong to the public 24/7, you can go take a brake but even that time you are on call of duty….The public that supports you owns you.
    Gordon should have resigned and called an election the day he was busted for drinking and driving, not use the old put a Conservative put a woman in to cool things down and now she runs the show like her own Royal court.
    She is point blank stealing money from us when she or any other sitting member makes money out side of their office it’belongs to us not their party , not their side pay….Not their’s!
    Patrick Watson

  5. My God, Rafe, get yourself on some main stream media and tell this stuff-we’re the choir.
    That was a spot on article-especially Coleman, BC’s own Ted Cruz.
    This kind of bad shit that the BCLibs have been doing is so extremely maddening and frustrating, something has to be shouted out. The NDP, who I’ve always voted for are as useless as attack kittens, with even less spine. The dumbed down or maybe beaten down, Global watching-Sun reading masses just don’t know, and they’re the only ones, if they would get angry and motivated enough to boot these horrible crooks out. See, I’m so pissed off, I’m reduced to using run on sentences. ( If you have to suck up-just a little bit- to be heard my an ignorant audience, do it. I’ll do it too if you can get the ear, and heart of the people.)
    Get heard Rafe, and to just the believers.

    1. The Mainstream Media wouldn’t take me if I changed my name to Shakespeare and wrote in blank verse. Do you really think any Postmedia paper would have me after I printed their mutual masturbation agreement with the oil industry? The Globe and Mail won’t accept a letter to the editor.
      This is the point. We may not be the polished establishment boosters you see in the MSM but we’re honest. We believe that governments, large institutions and the Central Canadian dominated establishment, now with the MSM kissing their backsides at every turn, don’t need our help “getting their message out” in that nauseating mantra. If you’re a lover of all that is, you don’t have far to go to get the paper for you. And to make it even better, you won’t see me in it.

      1. Total agreement.
        The “main stream” media in this province drink each others bathwater while scrubbing M’lady’s dirty underwear clean.
        “Nothing to see. Nothing to report…..”

        And they wonder why they’re losing readers and viewers in droves. Kinda like intentionally shooting one’s self in the foot and then complaining about how bumpy the ambulance ride is.

  6. One might be forgiven for wondering out loud if the Commissioner is less a “Watchdog” and more a “Lapdog”.

  7. One wonders what sort of political contributions that the “preferred” contractors like Kweit, or SNC Lavalin continue to shovel towards the Liberal party……judging by the BC Hydro, BC Ferries and BC Transit contracts they seem to be awarded……
    I dare say.
    A lot of money

    1. Well folks.
      12 months to the next chance to boot this govt out.
      Just dont expect a win until we see Christy announcing her election loss…..

  8. Ms. Clark is utterly corrupt, living with a sense of entitlement as profound as Harper’s. She accepts and welcomes bribes, believing herself and her cabinet above the law. Alas, there is no real opposition party in BC so the Liberals will likely be anointed yet again by a complacent public in the next election.

  9. Rafe, you are the best at telling it like it is. I liked the fact that Coyne spelled out that it is guilty until proven innocent in these types of political issues. So I hope this message gets spread to the masses so they can consider this at the next election.

    And I cannot believe how gullible Christy is that she thinks her supporters are her friends when in reality they are sycophants looking for opportunity crumbs to come their way and probably laugh as she leaves the room, as they continue to play her like a piano.

    Really sickening the lack of integrity in our politics here in the BC government. Very sad.

  10. And this is just what she has declared, its public. Can you imagine what is private and secret, what Petronas and the sort are offering…nudge, nudge, wink, wink. No, the public disclosure is just the tip of the iceberg.

  11. “Really! If all the Liberal Party needed was a politician, they could use Rich Coleman. They don’t use Coleman because, even if he covered himself with molasses, he couldn’t draw flies, let alone wealthy ones.” RM

    Extactly why this particular event is Free.

    Good one Rafe!

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