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Dix accuses Libs of plot to bribe unhappy aide involved in ethnic vote scandal

NDP leader Adrian Dix accused the BC Liberals in Question Period on July 15 of plotting to bribe a disgruntled staffer.

An unnamed employee who was involved in the so-called "Quick Wins" Multicultural Outreach Strategy scandal had information that "would damage the Premier and the (Liberal) party," according to a Sept. 18, 2012 email by then-multiculturalism communications director Brian Bonney. The email was included in the post-election dump of nearly 8,000 pages that were gathered for the March 14-released, in-house review by John Dyble, deputy minister to Premier Christy Clark.

"The email has another disturbing and separate element," Dix said. "It goes on to advise that if the initial efforts of the former minister, the member for Richmond-Steveston (John Yap); MLA (Harry) Bloy; and partisan staffer Brian Bonney to silence the staffer were unsuccessful, there was a plan for money to be offered. Again let me quote from the government's document, one they chose not to release prior to the election: 'If need be, offer X dollars per month to do non-public work up to the election.'"

Yap resigned before the Dyble report was released, but won re-election and was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to Attorney General Suzanne Anton, responsible for the liquor review. Yap's successor as multiculturalism minister is rookie Richmond Centre MLA Teresa Wat. During Question Period, she repeated talking points that were prepared in March, after the scandal erupted.

"I would like to start by saying that the outreach strategy draft document is wrong," Wat said. "The language and ideas contained in the draft document are all wrong. Our Premier has shown strong leadership and has taken responsibility by ordering a full review of this incident. A full report was delivered, and the government has accepted all the recommendations. I think we have to move forward, put this aside and try to focus on multiculturalism. Multiculturalism is our priority, and the diverse communities are our competitive advantage. They are a bridge to the Pacific, and I'm going to engage them and work to the benefit of British Columbia."

Finance Minister Mike de Jong also brushed aside the questions.

"Having said to the public that a mistake was made and we're taking steps to correct it… The public said on May 14: 'Premier, you and the BC Liberal Party are going to be re-elected as a free enterprise government.'"

Opposition house leader John Horgan said that if Clark had "taken full responsibility," the Quick Wins documents would have been released before the election. He unsuccessfully challenged Anton to rise and answer whether the Criminal Justice Branch was consulted.

The Liberals paid $70,000 from the party's CIBC general account to the Comptroller General on March 14, representing half of Bonney's annual pay. Bonney and former deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, however, both worked on the Liberal re-election campaign. In June, Liberal aides Fiera Lo and Blair Phelps were both rehired, despite being among the group of staffers who breached government code of conduct rules that prohibit party work on government time.

The Bonney email about the disgruntled staffer was mixed among lengthy and heavily redacted email exchanges between Bonney and Sepideh Sarrafpour, a government caucus liaison from October 2011 to October 2012. A Sept. 21, 2012 email from Sarrafpour to Bonney was censored in full.

An Oct. 29, 2012 email by Bonney to a person whose identity was censored included a copy of a July 8-9 chain of correspondence between Sarrafpour and him.

"Just going through e-mail and found this, (personal information). I often would talk to her on the phone rather than write back..." Bonney wrote on his Gmail account, which he employed in order to avoid his email being found by Freedom of Information requesters.

Bonney: "I am so confused -- let's talk."

Sarrafpour: "I can't talk now. People around me. Will talk later."

Bonney: "When can we talk then... this is urgent Sepideh..."

Sarrafpour's profile for her locked Twitter account lists her as a "Peace Activist, The 2012 Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal Recipient, North Vancouver Museum & Archives Commissioner, B.C. Muslim Council, FANS Board of Director."

Bonney, Yap, Bloy and Clark were among the 27 people who were interviewed for the Dyble report between March 1 and 6. Sarrafpour was not on the list of interviewees.

**UPDATE, July 16, 8:50 p.m.

Sarrafpour did not respond to an emailed interview request or a message sent via the North Vancouver Museum and Archives.

The bribery allegation dominated Question Period on July 16.

"Now, the minister has had the opportunity to be fully briefed," said NDP leader Adrian Dix. "Can the minister tell this House what damaging information there was to the premier and to the Liberal party that the government officials were attempting to hide?"

Wat said the email "suggests actions that would be inappropriate, reinforcing the findings of the Dyble report. Despite the allegation brought forward by many members of the Opposition yesterday and again by the Leader of the Opposition today, the review team found no evidence -- no evidence whatsoever -- that the suggestions highlighted were ever considered or acted upon by the government."

Dix asked whether Dyble contacted and interviewed the target of the Bonney email, but Wat gave no direct answer.

"Clearly, this review wasn't exhaustive, thorough or comprehensive," Dix said. "I mean, the answer to the question I just asked the minister is pretty clear. They didn't bother to contact the person. It wasn't thorough. I mean, either the review was conducted by Inspector Clouseau, which clearly isn't the case given the individuals involved, who are very senior people, or they didn't ask the questions. They didn't pursue the email. This happens to be the case."

Vancouver journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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