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British Columbia Sore loser or not, Dix must have found info on Clark worth looking into

B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix at a news conference in Vancouver, April 14, 2013. Dix rejects the idea that his claims against Clark are motivated by his party's lopsided loss in the spring.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

The RCMP does not launch investigations into the activities of a government lightly.

Which is why most assume that the information B.C. NDP Leader Adrian Dix turned over to police that has prompted a probe into an earlier scandal involving B.C. Premier Christy Clark's administration must be serious.

Mr. Dix held a news conference Friday, but was no more forthcoming about the nature of material he provided the Mounties than he was earlier this week when news of the RCMP's inquiry and the appointment of a special prosecutor to oversee the case became public.

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The NDP Leader said the information he turned over came to his attention after the May election, and the decision to bring it to the RCMP's attention was made upon the advice of party lawyers. He would only say that the nature of the intelligence was significant.

Mr. Dix also rejected claims by the Liberals that his decision was motivated purely by his party's devastating electoral loss in the spring: in other words, that he was a sore loser. That's irrelevant, he said.

For those arriving late to this story, the matter relates to an ethnic voter controversy that enveloped the government in February.

A memo came to light that outlined a cynical strategy to access government resources to build an ethnic database that would help the Liberal Party in the May election.

The document made it clear that government workers, including the premier's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, were putting together covert partisan plans on the taxpayers' dime.

The document made it clear that government workers, including the premier's deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad, were putting together covert partisan plans on the taxpayers' dime. Ms. Haakstad and another government staffer would lose their jobs over the matter and so would a cabinet minister. Ms. Clark has said she was unaware of Ms. Haakstad's actions.

A subsequent investigation by four senior deputy ministers would produce a scathing report that found the initiative to court ethnic voters inappropriately blurred the lines between government and party work. The Liberal Party would end up paying back $70,000 to the government for work done on its behalf by public servants.

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The affair represented the greatest crisis of Ms. Clark's tenure as premier. She had to stare down a potential caucus uprising: this two months before the start of an election. The NDP, not unjustifiably, thought this was the final nail in the coffin of the Liberals, who at the time trailed the New Democrats by 20 points in the polls.

Well, we of course know what happened. Ms. Clark withstood the storm and went on to launch one of the greatest political comebacks in Canadian history. When the dust cleared, it was Mr. Dix who was facing a potential party revolt, which ended with the recent announcement that he was stepping down as leader.

But it has always bothered Mr. Dix that the Liberals didn't pay more of a price for the ethnic voter mess. He would say after the May 14 vote that the Liberals cheated and got away with it. The odd thing is, for all the contempt that Mr. Dix held for the Liberals over this politically motivated plot, he refused to make an issue during the election because of his commitment to run a positive campaign.

He must be kicking himself now.

Of course, we'll have to wait and see where this latest twist on the ethnic-memo muddle goes. If it entraps another low-level government worker or two it's unlikely to hurt the Liberals. And unlikely to give Mr. Dix the retribution he is seeking.

The only way this imbroglio has the potential to inflict the kind of political damage Mr. Dix always believed it should have is if an investigation implicates senior members of government, elected officials in particular. At this point, no one has a clue how this will end.

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