11/07/2012 05:36 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

Pat Bell Email To Liberal Insider Under Fire

BC Gov

VICTORIA - The Opposition New Democrats want answers from B.C. Jobs Minister Pat Bell about an email he sent to the Liberal party's vice-president who was lobbying for a Chinese investor in Prince Rupert.

New Democrat finance critic Bruce Ralston said Wednesday the optics of Bell's email to Bill Belsey stink — especially since Belsey was working for the Chinese businessman who bought the former Skeena Cellulose pulp mill at Prince Rupert.

"His explanations are really, clearly inadequate," said Ralston. "There are a number of questions that Mr. Bell should be answering."

He said Bell needs to be asked if his relations with Belsey, a former Prince Rupert-area Liberal MLA and current Liberal Party vice-president, played any part in the Prince Rupert business deal.

Belsey was working as a lobbyist for companies owned by Chinese investor and businessman Ritao Ni, whose Sun Wave Forest Products was involved in the Skeena deal in Prince Rupert.

Ralston did not outright call for Bell's resignation but said the email-sharing situation is similar to that of former Liberal minister of state for multiculturalism Harry Bloy who resigned from cabinet last March after saying he provided an internal email to a third party.

"If he's not able to draw a clear distinction between his conduct and that of Mr. Bloy's, the Bloy example sets a precedent where a government email was sent to a Liberal insider and Premier (Christy Clark) herself described that as poor judgment."

Bell's ministry issued a statement saying the shared information from his ministry bureaucrats was an overview of Chinese-based media reports on Ni and his involvement with the Prince Rupert property.

The statement said the information in Bell's email provided was already well-known in Prince Rupert.

Bureaucrat's within Bell's office last November sent the minister a translated Chinese magazine article that was highly critical of Ni's business practices, titled "Chinese-style Mergers and Acquisitions."

The City of Prince Rupert is embroiled in a legal dispute with Sun Wave Forest Products, after the city took over the property for unpaid taxes.

Belsey was not immediately available for comment.

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