British Columbia

Campbell's Bilderberg trip no conflict: official

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has been cleared of a conflict of interest allegation for using public money to attend the Bilderberg meeting in Spain.

B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell has been cleared of a conflict of interest allegation for using public money to attend the Bilderberg meeting in Spain.

The province's conflict of interest commissioner, Paul Fraser, first looked into Campbell's attendance at the elite financial and political conference held in June after one of the key organizers of the anti-HST campaign lodged a complaint. Chris Delaney claimed it was a conflict for Campbell to use public money to attend the invitation-only gathering.

The B.C. government paid $8,700 dollars for Campbell's flights, while the Bilderberg Group paid for meals and accommodations. Attendance at the annual meeting is by invitation only and attendees are not permitted to bring family or staff or discuss what is said inside the closed conference rooms.

Attended as premier

But Fraser rejected Delaney's claim that Campbell had used government funds to attend a private conference and then failed to declare a personal benefit for receiving free food and accommodation.

Instead, Fraser concluded it was clear Campbell was invited as the premier of B.C. and that there was no misuse of public funds.

"The intellectual stimulation and benefit that the premier received by attending the meeting was, given his position as the head of the government, also a benefit to the citizens of this province. Information is the currency of democracy and the source of knowledge that informs public policy," Fraser wrote in his decision, which was released on Tuesday.  

"In my view, we have not reached the point where the trust and confidence we have in our system of responsible government is so frail that we question the value to our citizens of the premier of British Columbia attending, at some public expense, a unique international meeting of distinguished world citizens, engaged in the most important contemporary issues that the free world confronts," he wrote.

Fraser also denied claims by Delaney that he had launched an investigation of Campbell's trip, noting he only reviewed the complaint and documents filed by the premier.

Closed-door meetings

The annual Bilderberg meetings have been held every year since 1954 to bring together more than 100 of the world's top leaders, including politicians, CEOs, diplomats, journalists, academics, and economists, to have closed-door discussions about key global issues.

At the 2010 conference, which was attended by Peter Mansbridge, Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Henry Kissinger and Richard Holbrooke, topics of discussion included the global financial crisis, debt levels, the cost of medicare, nuclear security, the Gulf oil spill, social networking, NATO, the Afghan war, and world hunger.

"Given the agenda for discussion, it also seems clear that the organizers must have been aware of the premier’s and the government’s well known and particular interests in climate change, conservation, health-care costs and a new relationship with our First Nations communities," wrote Fraser.