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Democracy Watch calls on B.C. Special Prosecutor to reverse decision not to prosecute anyone in lobbyist donations scandal

Investigation ending like quick-wins probe – years later with very questionable decision not to prosecute anyone

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch called on the B.C. Special Prosecutor David Butcher to reverse his decision announced yesterday not to prosecute anyone involved in the lobbyist donation scheme revealed by the Globe and Mail in March 2017 in which several lobbyists donated money their clients gave them. Mr. Butcher’s decision is based on his exaggerated conclusion that convictions wouldn’t be possible, and the RCMP’s misplaced reasoning in its August 2019 report that the trials may cost more than the illegal donations.

“In situations like this, where a rule in a law has not been drawn clearly in past court rulings, prosecutors should generally prosecute when there is evidence of a violation and let the courts decide whether the accused has crossed the line,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “By failing to prosecute anyone, the special prosecutor has let all the alleged violators off the hook without even identifying them, and blocked the courts from ruling on their very questionable and likely illegal actions.”

David Butcher was appointed Special Prosecutor to assist the RCMP investigation at the end of March 2017. Elections B.C. reported in April 2017 that the B.C. Liberals had returned $174,313 in donations dating back to 2010 ($92,874 of which the Liberals had admitted were “prohibited” donations), and that the NDP had returned $10,500.

“The B.C. Liberals admitted they returned almost $93,000 in illegal donations in April 2017, so it’s unbelievable that special prosecutor Butcher has decided three years later not to prosecute any of those easily identifiable donors for violating B.C.’s political donations law,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “Mr. Butcher should drop his weak excuses and reverse his unjustifiable decision and prosecute the people who violated this key democracy law.”

The RCMP’s investigation is ending like another long-delayed investigation overseen by Butcher – the so-called “quick-wins probe” that lasted five years and resulted in only one person pleading guilty even though the RCMP recommended charges against other people.

In this case, according to the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement released yesterday, the RCMP’s report stated that there was “no substantial likelihood of conviction” in many of the donation situations and, secondly, that “where violations have occurred the RCMP has determined that is not in the public interest to pursue a prosecution, as the cost of doing so would be disproportionate to the value of the donations under investigation.”

Mr. Butcher exaggerates what the RCMP reported to say on the third page of his statement that “I have concluded that there is no prospect of any conviction in this case.”

The RCMP report paragraph quoted on the first page of Mr. Butcher’s statement didn’t say that there was no chance of conviction, it said that violations occurred but conviction wouldn’t be likely, and that the cost of prosecuting outweighs the amount of the donations.

Those are lame excuses that Mr. Butcher should not have exaggerated to try to create cover for his unjustified decision not to prosecute anyone.

Many people are prosecuted in Canada without full, clear evidence, including many who have stolen less than the cost of prosecuting them. They are prosecuted in part to send the message to the public that you can’t break the law and get away with it.

The message Mr. Butcher’s decision not to prosecute sends is that you can break the law in B.C. and get away with it, if you are part of the province’s political and legal elite – which won’t surprise many people in the province.

“Once again, David Butcher is burying, through unjustifiable delay and excuses, the possibility of powerful people in B.C. who have violated a key democracy-protecting law being prosecuted and convicted,” said Conacher.

At the end of his statement, Mr. Butcher says about the 2018 changes to B.C.’s political donations banning corporate and union donations and limiting individual donations to $1,200 annually that: “These amendments should squarely address the concerns expressed by the media and the complainants in this case.” This is entirely wrong. Democracy Watch’s concern was that lobbyists broke the law, and the only thing that will address that concern is having the lobbyists who violated the law prosecuted.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Money in Politics Campaign and Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign and Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign