VANCOUVER, B.C. (CB) — Canadian voters filed a class action British Columbia and its ruling party, claiming they are using public money to pay for partisan ads to buff the B.C. Liberal Party’s image.
Voters will go to the polls May 9 in the province The New York Times has dubbed the Wild West of political fundraising.
Lead plaintiff David Trapp filed a notice of civil claim in B.C. Supreme Court against Her Majesty the Queen in right of British Columbia, and the right-wing B.C. Liberal party — not to be confused with the federal Liberal Party of Justin Trudeau.
Trapp claims the B.C. Liberal Party has spent millions of dollars on “taxpayer-funded partisan and non-essential advertising,” to promote the party’s agenda on job creation and natural gas resource development.
“The purpose of the above-noted advertising is to enhance the image and reputation of the elected defendants’ political party and to improve their likelihood of success in the provincial election,” the complaint states.
Trapp says the governing party has wrongfully deleted public records, and that under former Premier Gordon Campbell, it suspended non-essential advertising before the 2009 election. Advertising then was limited to benign topics such as foster parent recruitment, service changes, public meetings, and traffic pattern changes, according to the complaint.
Trapp seeks class certification and wants the party ordered to repay the public treasury for the partisan and non-essential ads it bought.
The B.C. Liberal Party did not respond to a request for comment.
Trapp’s attorney Paul Doroshenko said in a phone interview that the lawsuit was spurred by public anger over the government ads, which have been running concurrently with ads for the B.C. Liberal Party, produced by the same advertising firm.
While there are no precedents to cite in the case, Doroshenko said, the B.C. government breached its fiduciary duty to taxpayers by spending public money on the ads.
“My concern is that they’ve taken what appears $15 million of our taxpayer money and they’re running ads in the hopes of getting reelected,” he said. “The [B.C.] Liberal Party is converting taxpayer money to their own [uses] and reaping the benefit and distorting the electoral process in the process. … The number one rule of a fiduciary [is], ‘Don’t take it for your own good.’”
In a Jan. 13 article under the headline: “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash,” The New York Times reported, among other things, that in addition to her annual salary of 195,000 Canadian tax dollars, B.C. Premier Christy Clark gets another 50,000 Canadian dollars from her party’s coffers.