British Columbia

NDP leaks emails on B.C. Liberal swing riding campaign

The B.C. NDP has launched allegations against the B.C. Liberal Party, claiming the rival party had a secret plan to use tax dollars for political campaigning.

Emails from private accounts appear to discuss campaign strategy meetings in Oct. 2011

The NDP released a set of apparent emails between Liberal government staffers allegedly arranging for campaign-related meetings on government time in October 2011. (CBC)

The B.C. NDP has launched allegations against the B.C. Liberal Party, claiming the rival party had a secret plan to use tax dollars for political campaigning back as far as 2011.

Documents leaked to CBC News by the NDP include emails between a number of B.C. Liberals from their private accounts in October 2011, and suggest the existence of a taxpayer-funded "Port Moody 'Swing Riding' Team" campaign team.

The suggestion of a so-called "Swing Team" was first made in a Vancouver newspaper back in March.

At the time, the Liberals dismissed the allegations as business as usual: just government work on government time.

The NDP says the emails it has leaked show a team of B.C. Liberal insiders — Dave Ritchie, Kim Haakstad, Trevor Halford and others — were having meetings about the by-election in Port Moody and preparations to strengthen the current Liberal campaign during regular business hours at the office of team leader Dave Richie: Room 247 in the main legislature.

The B.C. Public Service Act prohibits the use of government resources or time for partisan activities.

The emails also suggest the team was working to create an MLA "Speakers Bureau" to make sure "every single one of our riding associations is active and growing stronger as we get closer to May 2013."

Port Coquitlam NDP incumbent candidate Mike Farnworth said he would like to know if elected officials knew of these emails, and the meetings they appear to discuss.

"Did the premier, or any members of her cabinet, know that senior advisors in her office were meeting on government time and taxpayer dime to plan and run the B.C. Liberal Port Moody by-election campaign, and get other campaigns ready for this provincial election?" Farnworth asked in a written statement.

"This is not government on government time, this is political party work on the taxpayers' dime. And that's wrong and they know it. And that's why they were using private email, so that they wouldn't be subject to freedom of information," he said.

In response to the allegations, the B.C. Liberals' director of communications sent a document that appears to be a memo describing meetings being scheduled on government time for NDP partisan activity in 1994.

report arising from a recent internal investigation into the Liberals' controversial ethnic outreach strategy discovered serious breaches of the government code of conduct by a number of political staffers and other government employees.

The report highlighted the need to establish clearer lines between political work by political staff and work being done for a political party.

With files from the CBC's Luke Brocki and Stephen Smart