Elections BC is reviewing allegations that B.C. Liberal donors may have broken the province's Election Act, launching a probe Monday into potential violations involving indirect political donations.
The Globe and Mail reported last weekend that lobbyists made individual donations to the B.C. Liberals — on behalf of corporate clients — using their own credit cards. The report said the lobbyists were later reimbursed.
"These alleged contraventions include indirect political contributions and making or accepting political contributions improperly," said B.C.'s Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer in a statement.
"Elections BC takes any potential contravention of the Election Act seriously and will be investigating this matter further.
Probe may involve Justice Ministry
Archer's statement said the matter could be forwarded to the Justice Ministry's Criminal Justice Branch if it appears that the Election Act was contravened.
The penalties for violating these provisions of the Election Act are a fine of not more than $10,000, one year in prison, or both.
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver is calling on the investigation to go further, asking the RCMP to step in.
Weaver said he is concerned that individual donors have broken the law by being reimbursed for the donations, while at the same time filing for the individual tax deduction that comes with a political donation.
"The reason why it is critical is because the RCMP would have access to other information and they are ultimately the one that will determine if this is criminal," said Weaver.
May be 'misunderstanding': B.C.Liberals
In a statement, the B.C. Liberals downplayed the Globe and Mail report, saying the donations may have involved a "misunderstanding of the rules around political contributions in BC.
"We are taking immediate steps to ensure all donors understand their legal obligations under the Election Act," said party spokesperson Emile Scheffel in a statement.
"Whenever we become aware of behaviour that contravenes the Election Act, we work with Elections BC to address it. Remedies can include refunding or forfeiting donations."
But donation watchdog Dermod Travis says this issue is much bigger than just a few donors. The head of Integrity B.C. says his research has discovered more than $1 million in donations to the B.C. Liberals that posed a concern.
"I sent Elections BC yesterday 349 donations that stand out, that raised red flags for more than $1 million," said Travis.