Liberal accusations of kickbacks and slush funds are nothing more than a desperate attempt by a party trying to "change the channel" on its own sinking popularity, according to senior NDP MLAs.
The B.C. Liberals issued a statement late Wednesday suggesting the NDP had siphoned more than $400,000 out of constituency offices and into "slush funds."
Specifically, the Liberals suggested money designated for local constituents was instead being used for partisan purposes.
The Liberal press release singled out two Tri-Cities MLAs: Port Coquitlam MLA Mike Farnworth and Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Diane Thorne.
"Each of the 36 NDP MLAs paid a series of kickbacks diverted into a central fund that was controlled by the BC NDP Caucus instead of going towards helping local constituents," the Liberals alleged.
But according to both Farnworth and NDP caucus leader Shane Simpson, the issue seems to boil down to a misunderstanding between two of the province's top bureaucrats and was rectified months ago.
Simpson suggests that 40 per cent of the constituents in his Vancouver-Hastings riding speak Chinese exclusively, and that the pooling of funds was first discussed in late 2006 in an effort mainly to help pay for translation services.
Farnworth, on the other hand, said he used those funds to help with translation services in relation to the Amanda Zhao murder case.
Simpson noted that senior NDP caucus members went to the legislative comptroller in late 2006 to get a green light for their proposal, and asked the comptroller to administer the account.
That practice carried on until last summer, when auditor general John Doyle's audit and subsequent reports called for more financial transparency in the legislature.
According to Simpson, he and other senior NDP MLAs then met with Doyle and were told the original advice they had received from the comptroller was incorrect.
As of January, the party put a stop to the fund and returned roughly $1,600 to each party MLA.
"We did pool $200 a month per MLA," Farnworth said Thursday. "Before we did that we consulted with the legislative comptroller to make sure that everything was fine. He said 'Yes, it was.' Subsequently, the auditor general said he had received bad advice from the legislative comptroller, and so we stopped the practice."
As for why the Liberals issued the press release months after the fund ended, both Simpson and Farnworth were blunt in their assessment.
"The Liberals are in a pretty desperate situation at the moment," Simpson said.
"They're trying to change the channel in any way they can and they've decided that this is the closest thing they've got to something."
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