British Columbia

B.C. Liberals promise to hand over uncensored documents in money laundering inquiry

The NDP accuses the official opposition of 'vetting' material before turning it over to the inquiry, but the former Liberal finance minister vows full cooperation with commission.

NDP accuses opposition of 'vetting' material; former finance minister vows full cooperation with commission

Former B.C. Liberal Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong speaks to reporters at the B.C. Legislature, insisting his party will fully cooperate with the money laundering inquiry. (Tanya Fletcher/CBC)

The B.C. Liberals are pledging full cooperation in B.C.'s money laundering inquiry, which launched Monday with the first round of hearings in Vancouver. 

It follows claims from the NDP that the Opposition has been withholding cabinet documents from the Cullen Commission, and calls for the full and uncensored release of all relevant material.

During a morning media availability at the B.C. Legislature, Attorney General David Eby accused former B.C. Liberal finance minister Mike de Jong of trying to pick and choose which documents to provide.

According to Eby, de Jong did not approve a request by the public service to send the material directly to the inquiry.

"He is in a profound conflict of interest," said Eby. "It is simple: Instruct the public servants who compile these cabinet documents to send the full package of records. No pages cut out, no reports left out, to the commission. Full stop."

B.C. Attorney General David Eby addresses media on day one of the province's money laundering inquiry, accusing the B.C. Liberals of trying to censor documents before handing over material to the commission. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

But during a scrum with reporters later in the day, de Jong, who is responsible for overseeing confidential information from the previous government, denied allegations of censoring material.

"I expect [the commission] would want it all, and that's what's going to happen — that's what is happening," he said.

When explicitly asked whether he's vetting the documents in any way, shape, or form, he replied "I am not."

De Jong said the first batch of documents is in the form of a three-inch binder that he saw for the first time Monday morning, adding there is 'undoubtedly' more than that.

"They are cabinet-level documents that the commission deems relevant to the work they're doing, and I want them to have the material they believe is relevant to the work they're doing," he said.

I expect [the commission] would want it all, and that's what's going to happen — that is what is happening.- Former BC Liberal Finance Minister Mike de Jong

De Jong insisted his party is prepared to cooperate fully — but at the request of the inquiry, not at the request of the government. 

"I am mystified as to why the attorney general, having been part of the government that established an independent public inquiry, thinks it's his role to decide what's relevant," said de Jong. 

The B.C. Liberals have circulated a letter written by de Jong on Feb. 13, addressed to the attorney general's office.

"My preference for a direct line of communication with the Commission derives regrettably from the present attorney general's propensity to comment publicly and inaccurately on my correspondence with your office," the letter says. 

It asks for any correspondence containing the commission's request for cabinet documents, as well as the name of the commission representative the Liberals can contact directly.

Eby put forward three names when asked who he'd like to see testify: "Christy Clark, Mike de Jong, Rich Coleman."

When asked about that possibility, de Jong said, "If [the commission] ask[s] me to come and talk to them, I'm happy to do so."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Provincial Affairs Reporter covering the B.C. Legislature. Anything political: tanya.fletcher@cbc.ca

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