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British Columbia’s Bingogate

The Story

British Columbia's New Democratic Party is in big trouble. An auditor's report accuses Dave Stupich, once a finance minister and party president, of skimming funds from charity bingos for decades. NDP Premier Mike Harcourt wasn't involved but his government has been accused of trying to keep a lid on the scandal. Harcourt tells reporters he's "sickened" by the auditor's findings. But, as we see in this television clip, the premier is ignoring calls to resign.

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 16, 1995
Guests: Jacques Carpentier, Mike Harcourt
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Terry Milewski
Duration: 2:17

Did You know?

• The B.C. New Democratic Party set up the Nanaimo Commonwealth Holding Society in the 1950s. It ran bingo games and was required by law to turn their proceeds over to charities. Dave Stupich who ran the society set up a scheme that, for decades, skimmed some proceeds off the top.

• One month after this clip was broadcast, B.C. Premier Mike Harcourt did indeed quit to take responsibility for the Bingogate scandal.

• Harcourt was never implicated in the scheme but he faced a wave of criticism from the media and voters. Harcourt said the "blood lust" was taking an unacceptable toll on his family. To see a report about his resignation, go to the clip Mike Harcourt resigns in the topic "How the West is Won: A Half-Century of B.C. Elections."

• Stupich, featured in this clip, held the finance and agriculture portfolios during premier Dave Barrett's reign from 1972 to 1975.

• Once one of the most powerful and trusted B.C. politicians, Stupich pleaded guilty in September 1999 to a charge of fraud and another of running an illegal lottery. For masterminding the Bingogate scheme, Stupich received a sentence of two years less a day, served in his daughter's home while wearing an electronic monitoring device.

• A special prosecutor said Stupich, who personally used almost $1 million in charity funds, deserved a jail term of four to six years. But the prosecutor recommended house arrest because the 77-year-old Stupich was suffering from progressive dementia.

• The prosecution successfully argued, however, that the disgraced politician should not be allowed to serve his sentence in the luxurious island home featured in this clip.

• As part of Stupich's plea bargain, Bingogate-related charges against his common-law wife, daughter and a former provincial NDP secretary were stayed in return for each of them performing 200 hours of community service.

• A public inquiry set up to probe Bingogate heard that about $2 million destined for charities was diverted to other sources, including the provincial NDP and Stupich's failed real estate deals.

• In 2001, the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell pulled the plug on the Bingogate inquiry saying it had run too long -- five years -- and was too expensive at $10 million and counting.

• Bingogate undoubtedly hurt the NDP. But Harcourt's successor, Glen Clark, managed to eke out a narrow win in the 1996 election. Clark resigned in 1999. He was later found not guilty of criminal charges related to the granting of a licence for a charity casino. After Bill Vander Zalm and Harcourt, Clark was the third B.C. premier within a decade to quit under a cloud of controversy.

• After politics, Harcourt embarked on an academic career as a lecturer and researcher on global issues and sustainable economic development. He has advised Prime Minister Paul Martin on the environment and the economy and has also been involved in private business ventures. Harcourt suffers some paralysis from a 2002 accident at his cottage where he fell down a cliff and into the ocean.


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