Van Dongen wants conflict commissioner off Clark case
B.C. Premier Christy Clark speaks to reporters in this Oct. 23, 2012 file photo. (CTV)
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
Published Friday, November 9, 2012 9:24PM PST
VICTORIA -- Independent MLA John van Dongen wants B.C.'s conflict of interest commissioner to step out of an investigation just days after he asked him to step in to look at allegations he's making against Premier Christy Clark.
Van Dongen said Friday he now wants conflict commissioner Paul Fraser to step away from the investigation request on grounds of possible bias because John Paul Fraser, his son, holds a senior position in Clark's government.
Earlier this week, van Dongen filed an official request with Paul Fraser's office to conduct an investigation to determine if Clark was in conflict of interest nine years ago when she was part of the Liberal government when it sold Crown-owned B.C. Rail.
Clark was the education minister and deputy premier in 2003 when the sale of B.C. Rail to CN Rail occurred, touching off a series of events that saw the police raid the legislature and two Liberal government aides plead guilty to corruption-related charges.
Van Dongen said he did not know Fraser's son worked for the government or that he is a personal friend of Clark when the request with the conflict commissioner was filed.
"The public is entitled to have confidence in the integrity of the conflict-of-interest complaint process," said van Dongen in a statement he read at a press conference Friday. "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."
Clark said this week she will co-operate fully with an investigation if one proceeds.
She said she wants the issue to go to the conflict commissioner, "because we will finally, once and for all, be able to put a fork in this."
Van Dongen, who said he's spent a least $100,000 of his own money pursuing the conflict case against the premier, said he believes there is a chance 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," he said in his statement. "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."
Van Dongen did not say who he would prefer other than Fraser to decide on his investigation request.
Fraser was not immediately available for comment.
Van Dongen's investigation request alleges Clark contravened the Members' Conflict of Interest Act. He asks the conflict commissioner to investigate her activities related to the B.C. Rail file.
Van Dongen's Nov. 7 letter to the commissioner suggested that while Clark made known she was taking action to avoid a potential for a conflict of interest in relation to B.C. Rail on some occasions, there were instances where she did not.