British Columbia

Company owned by former B.C. government director pleads guilty to Elections Act violation

A company once run by former B.C. government communications director Brian Bonney has pleaded guilty to one count of making an unreported political contribution.

Company failed to report a B.C. Liberal campaign worker's salary as an election expense

Former B.C. government communications director Brian Bonney leaves Vancouver provincial court Tuesday morning. (CBC)

A company once run by former B.C. government communications director Brian Bonney has pleaded guilty to one count of making an unreported political contribution.

Mainland Communications has been fined $5,000 by Judge David St. Pierre, an amount agreed to in a joint submission by special prosecutor David Butcher and the company's defence lawyer.

The case revolved around a B.C. Liberal party campaign worker who was paid through Mainland Communications. Her salary was not reported as an election expense.

"It's a serious allegation," St. Pierre said in court. "A fair and democratic system will suffer incalculable danger without adherence to [Elections Act] rules."

In 2014, Mainland Communications, as well as company director Brian Bonney and company secretary Mark Robertson, were charged with three counts of contravening the Elections Act during a 2012 by-election campaign in Port Moody-Coquitlam.

The Crown stayed the remaining charges against the company and all charges against Bonney and Robertson.

"[The Elections Act] is critical to a fair election process and public confidence. This was not an inadvertent error," Butcher said. 

The company's defence lawyer, Greg DelBigio, said $5,000 is a "significant fine." 

"We deny it was part of a broader scheme, but even if it was, the penalty is fitting nonetheless," he said.

B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan was in court when the decision was delivered. 

"I'm disappointed that the B.C. Liberals have such little regard for ... fair elections in this province," he said. "Breach of trust is a serious business." 

"Why is it that the B.C. Liberal Party seems to be spending more time covering its tracks than dealing with the real challenged that British Columbians face every since day?".

Horgan said the verdict highlighted the importance of the public debate around changing how elections are financed in the province.

Earlier today, Bonney was charged with a more serious criminal count of breach of trust by a public officer.

It's alleged that while working and being paid as the government's communications director for multiculturalism and public engagement, he did partisan work for the B.C. Liberal party.

With files from Eric Rankin

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