Lobbyists and others who violated the Elections Act by filing their company’s donations under their own name will face no consequences, it has been announced after a special police investigation that spanned more than three years.
The RCMP provided no report to Crown Counsel, via special prosecutor David Butcher, who has now concluded his Elections Act investigation, according to a Prosecution Service statement issued Monday.
According to the RCMP’s “concluding report” delivered August 2019 to Crown Counsel, “The RCMP believes that there is no substantial likelihood of conviction for any of the violations of the Election Act that were examined during the course of this investigation.
“Furthermore, where violations have occurred the RCMP has determined that is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution, as the cost of doing so would be disproportionate to the value of the donations under investigation.”
The investigation began in March 2017 in the lead up to the provincial election. A Globe and Mail article spurred the investigation by reporting how some lobbyists were donating in their own names but being compensated by their employer — which is illegal.
A New York Times article — which preceded the Globe’s article in January 2017 — titled “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash” quotes Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch calling B.C. “the wild west” of political donations.
Three years later Butcher stated he agreed with the conclusion of the police following his nine-month review of the file and that there is “insufficient evidence available to meet the charge approval standard in this case.”
The RCMP analysis of donation records, cited by Butcher’s statement, found insufficient evidence of a “significant volume or pattern of donations.”
Mitigating factors played a role where there were violations. For instance, police concluded “many of the lobbyists identified in the reports quickly filed corrections with Elections BC, confirming that donations made by corporations or union employees were in fact made by their employees.”
Police suggested the matter was minor in nature, as the donations were a “fraction of the total donated by the employers.”
The police analysis found donations by registered lobbyists accounted for approximately 2% of the $44.96 million donated to the BC Liberals and $19.17 million to the NDP between 2013 and 2017 — or $1.28 million.
According to Butcher, police noted: “The employees interviewed by the police expressed a lack of knowledge of the [Elections Act provisions], and explained, reasonably, that the breaches of the Act were inadvertent.
“Evidence of criminality was difficult to gather because there were structural flaws in regulatory accounting systems.”
RCMP found “no or insufficient evidence” that “the rules were being circumvented by lobbyists and others to hide the true source of the donations.”
Butcher said there was “no prospect for any conviction” and suggested many of the problems cited in media articles in 2017 have been solved by the Election Amendment Act of November 2017. He noted the section dealing with individual donations has been substantially rewritten, namely that there is an annual cap on donations by individuals ($1,200) and a ban on corporate and union donations.
It still remains illegal, as it was before the Act was rewritten, to donate money to a political campaign in someone else’s name or to be reimbursed for a donation by an employer.