(Elections BC handout)

Not enough evidence for charges in B.C. political fundraising probe: prosecutor

Premier John Horgan’s New Democrat government brought in campaign finance reform shortly after taking office

A special prosecutor appointed to look into criminal allegations around political fundraising in British Columbia has wrapped up his report and concluded there is insufficient evidence to lay charges.

David Butcher was appointed in 2017 to advise the RCMP on claims made by whistleblowers and in media reports of indirect political contributions and other potential contraventions of the Elections Act.

B.C.’s chief electoral officer asked the RCMP to investigate in March 2017, saying the office wanted to appear neutral in the period leading up to the May 2017 provincial election.

The BC Prosecution Service says in a news release issued Monday that RCMP delivered a report concluding there is no substantial likelihood of a conviction of any of the violations they examined.

The report says where violations have occurred, the RCMP has determined that it is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution because the cost of doing so would be disproportionate to the value of the donations under investigation.

The allegations were that the absence of contribution limits made it easy for corporations to appear to attempt to buy influence with the government and that the rules were being circumvented by lobbyists and others to hide the true source of donations.

The final report from Mounties says an initial review suggested the scope of the problem was significant but a deeper look found there was no support behind the broad allegations.

RCMP say they conducted an analysis of the lobbyists and corporations named in the media reports and noted that corrections had been filed with Elections BC, confirming donations made by corporations or unions were in fact made by their employees.

“I have spent considerable time reviewing the data gathered by the RCMP and have determined that the conclusion of the police is correct: that there is insufficient evidence available to meet the charge approval standard in this case,” Butcher said in the statement.

Premier John Horgan’s New Democrat government brought in campaign finance reform shortly after taking office, banning union and corporate donations while limiting individual donations to $1,200.

The Canadian Press

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