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Quebec lawyer to shed light on political donation scandal in BC

Last Updated Mar 21, 2017 at 11:40 am PDT

(Martin MacMahon, NEWS 1130 Photo)

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VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Local police aren’t enough to prevent and detect corruption in BC, that’s the message from a Quebec lawyer and anti-corruption expert.

Sonia LeBel, commission counsel for the Charbonneau Inquiry into corruption in infrastructure and construction in Quebec, is in Vancouver to share lessons from her province’s experience in minimizing corruption.

On whether all jurisdictions should have a dedicated anti-corruption investigative body, LeBel says police can’t work alone.

“It’s not sufficient to leave it to local police. Because you cannot attack systems. You can attack individuals, but not systems, by only prosecuting. You might remove someone, but somebody else is going to take his place if the system is still there. Prevention, detection, prosecutions are all tools you need to work with. And a unit like UPAC (Unité permanente anticorruption) in Quebec or that in New York… can do all that at the same time.”

LeBel’s advice comes as the RCMP continues its investigation into reports of potential Elections Act violations involving indirect and allegedly illegal lobbyist donations to the BC Liberal Party.

It also follows Premier Christy Clark’s announcement of changes to political fundraising rules in BC after her party came under fire. She released details of an independent third-party, non-partisan panel that would take a closer look at the issue.

The BC NDP confirmed last week it had received two improper donations. The party said it had discovered two cases over the last four years where mistakes were made, but claimed to have corrected the errors. Reports say the NDP has returned the donations — a total of nearly $10,000.

NDP MLA David Eby says LeBel has a better perspective than others because of the similarities between her work on the Charbonneau Inquiry, and BC controversy. “For example, the RCMP investigation ongoing here into alleged straw donors who allegedly funneled money from donors into the coffers of the BC Liberal Party without disclosing where the money was coming from.”

Eby adds Quebec has very strong rules against political donations and corruption was still an issue there. He feels that should be a red flag. “It’s important to recognize that Quebec had really strong rules around the limits on donations, rules that British Columbia doesn’t have, and they still had this issue.”

The official opposition says the rules need to change in BC. “I think that we in British Columbia have gotten used to a certain level of scandal involving political donations because we have these out of control rules that allow unlimited donations.”

The Charbonneau Commission made dozens of recommendations following an investigation into government contracts and the construction industry in Quebec.

LeBel launched the first English translation of volume three of the Charbonneau Report at her event at UBC’s Peter A. Allard School of Law today.