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HomeMiscellanyExclusive: Court documents outline the role of “Brian from Burnaby” in BC Liberal dirty tricks

Exclusive: Court documents outline the role of “Brian from Burnaby” in BC Liberal dirty tricks

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Bob Mackin

Not only was BC Liberal operative Brian Bonney paid taxpayer money to roll out the party’s ethnic pandering strategy, but he was also heavily involved in media manipulation. 

Email from court exhibits in the breach of public trust case against Brian Bonney.

In documents obtained by theBreaker from B.C. Provincial Court, the only person charged and guilty of breach of public trust in the Quick Wins scandal boasted to party workers that he was so skilled at calling radio talkshows, he became known as “Brian from Burnaby.” 

Bonney helped organize fake phone calls to radio talkshows and recruited party members to sign their names to letters to newspaper editors that promoted the governing party and bashed the opposition NDP. 

On Jan. 19, 2012, Bonney encouraged one of the party’s Chinese outreach workers to call the Bill Good Show on CKNW, while B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Susan Lambert and Education Minister George Abbott were guests. 

“Can you call in? I know it is not Chinese radio but I guarantee you that MLAs and all staff will be listening,” Bonney wrote to Bill Yuen. “A Chinese voice is likely to get chosen first. 604-280-9898. Call often, fast as soon as the (sic) open the lines – Or better try to anticipate when they open lines.” 

Bonney wrote that BCTF was asking for 10 weeks off when a friend dies and 26 weeks off to help a sick friend, while demanding a 15% pay hike. 

“Who gets that???” Bonney wrote. “These demands are not realistic. Every other union recently has settled at Net Zero – CUPE school support workers settled at zero percent. If you can get on  – it would be huge.”

Clark (left) and Kukucha during the 2013 campaign.

On Feb. 2, 2012, lobbyist Steve Kukucha of the BC Liberal-connected Wazuku firm wrote 14 Liberal staffers, and copied party president Sharon White, above the subject: “Cutting Edge of the Leg. Tomorrow – CALLERS NEEDED.”

Kukucha’s email included 11 talking points about Premier Christy Clark’s LNG and jobs plans that “you can use tomorrow for call in shows and to speak with your networks (I’ve added a few people to the distribution list).”

Party executive director Chad Pederson chimed in. “I know this show is a focus each week, and thanks to Jehn [Benoit, party communications director] for her usual work, but I agree with Steve that this is a big segment. Let’s rally the troops!”

Bonney wrote to Sepideh Sarrafpour, a BC Liberal subcontractor, on Feb. 3, 2012. 

“Have you ever called a radio talk show? Tomorrow is “cutting edge of the ledge” on CKNW,” he wrote. “They are looking for people to call and just say good things about BC Liberals and start suggesting ‘the media has given Adrian Dix a free ride – they are NOT holding him accountable! He makes promise after promise, knowing we have a big deficit to get under control – where will he get the money? From us! Taxes will go up with Dix. – Not what I want.”

Lobbyist Kukucha’s email to BC Liberal party insiders.

Bonney continued: “The show on CKNW comes on at about 9-9:30 usually start calling just before they seem to go for the first break and keep calling over and over until the end. I know it is hard and you only get through once in say 5 tries but it is worth it! – when you get through, give them your first name (ok) and say what you want to talk about – very short. Then while on hold you can hear the show through the phone so turn your radio “off” as when you get on air it will bother you.”

Today’s BC Liberals, Yesterday’s Tactics… 

Bonney was not alone in the dirty tricks campaign. 

In a July 17, 2012 email, Mike McDonald, who was Clark’s first and last chief of staff, appealed for callers to Province columnist Mike Smyth’s fill-in appearance for Good.

“Looking for a little help this morning,” McDonald wrote. “If you are receiving this, it’s because you may be able to identify some open line callers on short notice (maybe you!).”

McDonald included key messages, such as: 

  • Premier and BCL are getting the big things right (AAA credit, job growth over last year, on track for balanced budget).
  • Media are being consistently negative. 
  • No focus is being put on Dix and what he would do.

McDonald even suggested quotes that party supporters could use on-air. 

  • “The Premier deserves a break. She inherited a tough situation and she’s run a good government.”
  • “Everyone is shooting at her. She’s showing a lot of toughness to put up with this.” 
  • “Judge her by her results. Created over 60,000 jobs and on track to balance the budget.”
  • “Dix have (sic) been given a free ride.” 
  • “Dix forged a memo to derail a criminal investigation and he’s treated with kid gloves.”
  • “Pollsters and pundits should stop telling us who’s going to win the election and let the damn voters decide for themselves.”

    Clark Clique insider McDonald (Twitter)

Bonney forwarded the email to Sarrafpour with advice: “Never say where you work! Tell them you have contracts to help non-profits. Only use first or middle name (middle best) and if they ask if you are a member that is Ok to say yes.”

In a July 23, 2012 email, Bonney wrote to her: “Dix is on air at 1:15. Can you call in and harass him???!!!”

Meanwhile, BC Liberal workers also plotted ways to get letters to the editor published in newspapers. 

Bonney emailed Sarrafpour and other party workers, Patrick O’Connor and Mark Robertson, on July 16, 2012: “Hi Patrick We finally have a new letter sender – Thanks to Sepideh. Sepideh – What is his email? 

“Patrick, Naveed [Waraich] will want to see each letter first. He will want to do PRO BC Liberal, Christy letters only.

“First email should do intro and say: I understand you would like me to send letters for you to the BC local papers and Sepideh has indicated what you wanted to say. Below is the letter you wanted — be sure it says what you want and how you would say it and if so let me know its ok. Then I will send it out for you.”

Media manipulation during the Quick Wins-era was part of a long tradition of BC Liberal dirty tricks. 

Mike McDonald’s appeal for fake callers to a CKNW talkshow in 2012.

In January 2005, Indo-Canadian community organizer Prem Vinning called a Channel M talkshow while Premier Gordon Campbell was a guest. Vinning called himself “Peter From Surrey” and asked Campbell a softball question on transportation infrastructure. Vinning was exposed on Sean Holman’s Public Eye Online and forced to resign as Campbell’s director of Asia-Pacific trade. 

In April 2007, B.C. Supreme Court heard evidence of ex-ministerial aide Dave Basi, and BC Liberal insiders McDonald and Mike Morton organizing fake phone calls to radio talkshows in Vancouver, Victoria and Prince George. 

Dr. Kenneth Fung, an associate professor at the University of B.C., was rewarded by cabinet in 2013 with a seat on the UBC board of governors. Fung admitted to calling a CKNW radio show under the pseudonym “Mike” to suggest an NDP candidate in Richmond couldn’t speak English. 

One of the most-notorious dirty tricks in B.C. history was in 1998, when Parksville-Qualicum MLA Paul Reitsma was booted from caucus after writing letters to a local newspaper under the monicker “Warren Betanko.” 

The Parksville Morning Sun revealed the deception when it published a story under the headline “MLA Reitsma is a liar and we can prove it.”

In the fall of 1979, Premier Bill Bennett’s Social Credit Party government was under fire for a dirty tricks scandal. Socred caucus researchers, led by Jack Kelly, wrote rosy letters to newspapers about the government under aliases. Grace McCarthy aide George Lenko resigned after a “how to” audio tape instructing party workers to write the fake letters was sent to campaign managers. Lenko is director of special projects with the Pace Group, a BC Liberal lobbying and public relations firm. 

In his book “Bill Bennett: A Mandarin’s View,” retired deputy minister Bob Plecas noted that Brenda Dalglish of the Goldstream Gazette originally broke the dirty tricks story in September 1979. The Vancouver Sun followed the next day with a sensational front page headline: Fake letters to editor penned by Socreds.

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