B.C. Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser has launched an investigation into complaints about politicians raising funds by selling access to exclusive events.
New Democrat MLA David Eby and Democracy Watch co-founder Duff Conacher recently filed separate complaints after media reports that Premier Christy Clark attended fundraising events at which people paid thousands of dollars for exclusive access to her.
Mr. Fraser told the complainants he will issue one opinion on the two complaints.
"I'm very glad that the commissioner is looking into this matter. I think that it's an issue of serious public concern," Mr. Eby said on Thursday. "In my opinion, the Premier is selling access to her office to people who could benefit directly from decisions she makes in cabinet, and there should be some oversight of that."
Mr. Eby said he hopes the investigation will clarify the rules around such fundraising events and include interviews with participants who paid for access to the Premier.
"The rules aren't totally clear in British Columbia … about where the line [is crossed] from fund-raiser-in-chief to selling access and granting access for people who can afford to buy it. I'm hoping the commissioner will clarify what those rules are," he said.
"In Ontario … the investigation of donations turned up complaints that donors were pressured to attend events like this in order to receive government business. So I hope the commissioner's investigation would include contacting people who attended these events, to ask them about the context of their invitations."
Mr. Conacher said he is pleased Mr. Fraser has agreed to investigate and is satisfied that one opinion can deal with the two complaints.
"I think that's great," he said of the commissioner's decision to investigate the issue. "He is going to rule on both of them together. … I think David Eby cited a different section of the [Conflict of Interest] Act than I did … [but] I hope the commissioner will look at all the rules."
Mr. Conacher's letter to the commissioner says that when people pay to attend private events with a political leader, the politician in effect receives an illegal gift.
Ms. Clark has said that while she attends fundraising events organized by the B.C. Liberal Party, she does not ask how much people pay.
She has also said B.C.'s laws governing party donations are adequate.