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Bennett declines to comment on advertising allegation

A voice message recording the New Democratic Party released yesterday said the search for a way to circumvent an advertising blackout was on the instructions of the minister.

At the time of the message, July, 2008, according to the NDP's tourism, culture and the arts critic Spencer Herbert, the minister responsible was Bill Bennett.

“I didn't see that part,” said Bennett, asked today about the message.

The NDP's transcript of the call Herbert said he believes is from former tourism deputy minister Bruce Okabe to Tourism B.C.'s Ray LeBlond says, “The Minister's asked us to come up with some blue sky ideas, in terms of how we might get the B.C. message out . . . just before the blackout period, and maybe even during the blackout period, to see if we can figure out a way to do it.”

Bennett, now community and rural development minister, declined to talk about the allegation until Chief Electoral Officer Harry Neufeld has had a chance to decide whether to investigate and to complete an investigation if that's what he decides to do. “All I can say to you now is the NDP have decided to take this to the chief electoral officer,” Bennett said. “That's their right to do that if they want to play silly bugger and do this sort of thing they can do that.”

It was important to bring the recording to Neufeld's attention, said Herbert. “What's said on the tape is concerning,” he said. “Anytime you hear something that might give you the impression government resources, taxpayer resources, might be used to help in partisan purposes, it needs to be looked at.”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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