07/17/2013 07:16 EDT | Updated 09/16/2013 05:12 EDT

Adrian Dix: Premier Christy Clark, B.C. Liberals Are Cheats

VICTORIA - Opposition New Democrat Leader Adrian Dix called British Columbia's Liberals cheats Wednesday, as the ongoing debate about the failed Liberal plan to court ethnic voters turned into a name-calling contest, and one Liberal cabinet minister said the NDP was beating a dead horse.

Dix said the seeds of the Liberal cheating were planted during Premier Christy Clark's leadership campaign in February 2011 and continued throughout the development of her jobs' plan and up until last spring's election.

"If you look at the operation of this premier's office from leadership campaign to premier's office to election, they spent a lot of attention on this," Dix told reporters following question period where the ethnic-vote issue was debated for the third consecutive day.

"Huge money was involved in government advertising, which is part of the plan.

"Huge efforts were made and significant efforts were made to use government resources it appears to develop lists. They diverted $1 million from the jobs' plan."

Dix didn't accuse the Liberals of cheating to win the May election, but he said the effort put into the discredited multicultural-outreach plan was massive, reached the top levels of the government and included job offers to silence critics.

"The question is were they acting appropriately or not," he said. "The answer is they were cheating. That's plain. They were cheating."

A review last March by Clark's deputy minister John Dyble found work lines between the B.C. government and the Liberal party were crossed in a government effort to win ethnic votes.

The review, which made six recommendations, found two serious instances of misuse of government resources.

One misuse involved the payment of $6,800 to a community contractor for work approved by former multiculturalism minister John Yap without a signed contract.

The second instance concerned former government aide Brian Bonney who worked for the government caucus and the Liberal party, while he was being paid as a government employee.

Dyble said at least half of Bonney's time was spent doing work for the Liberal party on the ethnic-outreach strategy, prompting the Liberal party to later reimburse the government $70,000 as part of Bonney's salary.

Dyble's review caused Clark's popularity ratings to plunge, forced Yap out of cabinet and cost two Liberal insiders, Kim Haakstad and Mike Lee, their jobs.

Bonney left government for a private-sector job.

But the New Democrats barely mentioned the failed Liberal multicultural plan during the election campaign. They chose instead to stick to their positive message strategy, even though the Liberals frequently mentioned Dix's past episode with cheating during the 1990s where he admitting altering a memo to protect former NDP premier Glen Clark.

But the NDP seized upon the report this week after reviewing 10,000 pages of documents connected to Dyble's report. The documents were released following the May 14 election.

Dix said emails contained in the documents indicate at least one person with the potential to damage the Liberals was not interviewed as part of the review.

The email in question involves communications from Bonney, who was found to be at the heart of the scandal, suggesting disgruntled former Liberal worker Sepideh Sarrafpour should be offered money to do non-public work before May's provincial election.

Sarrafpour could not be reached for comment but she told Global BC she met with former Liberal cabinet minister Harry Bloy about a possible job.

She last worked for the Liberal government in September 2012.

Correspondence between Sarrafpour and Bonney that appear in the pages before the job-offer email show the liaison worker, who helped organize events in ethnic communities, was extremely frustrated about communication with Yap's office.

She sent an email Aug. 30 outlining her concerns, but like many of the emails, it was heavily redacted, making it difficult to understand the specifics of her complaint.

The email in which Bonney appears to lay out a strategy to mollify Sarrafpour, including the potential job offer, was sent Sept. 18.

The New Democrat have called on the Liberals to initiate a broader review to focus on the questions raised by the emails.

But Citizens' Services Minister Andrew Wilkinson said the government is not about to second-guess the findings of the four-person committee that included Dyble and three other senior civil servants.

"This is truly a dead issue," said Wilkinson who added the NDP has flogged the issue to the point where the dead horse has "no skin left."

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