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British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Canucks' mascot Fin before the Olympic Cauldron was re-lit in honour of the Canucks NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey playoff run in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday June 6 2011. (Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press)
British Columbia Premier Christy Clark and Canucks' mascot Fin before the Olympic Cauldron was re-lit in honour of the Canucks NHL Stanley Cup Final hockey playoff run in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday June 6 2011. (Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press)

Robert Matas

Crosscheck: Politicians and free tickets Add to ...

" She filed a disclosure statement. She followed all the rules and obligations under the act," communications director for the Premier's Office Shane Mills speaking on Christy Clark's decision to accept free tickets to Wednesday's Stanley Cup game.

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The Vancouver Canucks gave B.C. Premier Christy Clark free tickets to three Stanley Cup games. Ms. Clark decided to use them for herself and her son. Her decision was in sharp contrast to the way politicians have recently handled politically sensitive freebies.

The Winter Olympics in Vancouver last year set what could be regarded as the gold standard for politicians who have access to free tickets to highly popular sporting events. After a controversy, the B.C. government announced that no MLA would be allowed to use free tickets unless an official duty required participation in the program. (Ms. Clark, who was a radio talk show host at the time, may have not seen the memo.)

The Harper government provided free tickets to the Olympics for government members who accompanied heads of state or foreign government officials, but otherwise all members of Parliament paid their own way.

A committee of senior bureaucrats for the City of Vancouver handed out tickets to councillors and park board members, who were asked to attend protocol events, and to their spouses. All elected politicians received tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies, but spouses were not invited.

Surrey Mayor Diane Watts' office bought two top-tier tickets to the Olympics opening ceremonies, but Ms. Watts gave them away at an annual gala to raise money for the city's firefighters.

Federal and municipal politicians followed Olympics rules during the Stanley Cup games. Both Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson paid for their tickets when they went to cheer on the Canucks.

Mr. Harper went to Boston from Ottawa with his daughter, paying $1,000 for two tickets and $1,060 for airfare. Mr. Robertson paid $380 for a ticket for Game 5 in Vancouver and $566 for Wednesday's final.



Previous governments in B.C. had anticipated days like this. The Members' Conflict of Interest Act sets out procedures for handling freebies. The legislation says a member of the legislature must not accept any fee, gift or personal benefit, except compensation authorized by law, connected directly or indirectly with the performance of duties in office.

The prohibition does not apply to a gift or personal benefit received as a matter of protocol or social obligations accompanying the responsibilities of office.

However, if the gift or personal benefit is worth more than $250, the politician is required by provincial legislation to "immediately file" a disclosure statement, setting out the nature of the gift or benefit, its source and the circumstances under which it was given and accepted. Immediately, in this context, means within 30 days. After filing a disclosure statement, the politician is also required by legislation to meet with the commissioner to ensure that adequate disclosure has been made.



Ms. Clark followed the rules set out in legislation, although she may have sidestepped the Olympics policy that says freebies are for those who have an official duty requiring their participation. Explaining how attending a hockey game could be connected to her responsibilities as Premier, Ms. Clark has said she was promoting a cause that all British Columbians could rally around.

Conducting government business on behalf of British Columbians, Ms. Clark would also be entitled to claim 50 cents a kilometre for her gas to drive to the game. She could also receive $61 to cover her meals and the exorbitant parking fees around Rogers hockey arena. The reimbursement for her expenses would, of course, be in addition to her salary as premier of $193,532.

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