The president of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said one of his best hiring decisions was to contract the disgraced B.C. government communications director from the BC Liberals’ “Quick Wins” ethnic pandering scandal.
“This is a bad thing that happened to a good person,” Troy Lanigan said about Brian Bonney, in an interview with theBreaker.
Lanigan was one of 61 people who wrote character reference letters in support of Bonney to Provincial Court Judge David St. Pierre, after Bonney pleaded guilty to breach of public trust last October.
On Jan. 31, St. Pierre gave Bonney a nine-month conditional sentence, to be served in the community. Bonney is under house arrest from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, among other conditions that he must follow in order to stay out of jail.
Bonney worked as a fundraiser during the CTF’s successful campaign to oppose the TransLink expansion tax plebiscite in 2015, which was revealed by the Georgia Straight at the time of the campaign. Lanigan was quoted calling the cost of the Quick Wins investigation “obscene” and “ridiculous.”
Court files obtained by theBreaker revealed that Bonney has remained with the CTF’s B.C. division, playing an integral role as the general sales manager for the lobby group. His resume boasts hiring, training and motivating 18 new territory managers who increased B.C. fundraising totals from $300,000 to $795,000 in two years.
Lanigan’s Nov. 10 letter called Bonney task-focused, enthusiastic and loyal. “No matter what the outcome of this sentencing, I can tell you Brian has a home and a job with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation,” Lanigan wrote.
“I sense this entire experience for him has been an incredibly costly lesson in the maxim: if you lie with dogs you will get fleas. I’m fairly certain Brian has had his share of fleas.”
During sentencing, both special prosecutor David Butcher and defence lawyer Ian Donaldson agreed that Bonney was not the mastermind or director of the scheme to use taxpayers’ funds to help the party gain votes from ethnic communities in a bid to win the 2013 election.
The court heard that ex-cabinet ministers John Yap and Harry Bloy did not cooperate with the RCMP investigation, on advice of their lawyers, and that then-Premier Christy Clark had been briefed on the multicultural plan a year before it was leaked. Clark had claimed in 2013 that she only learned of it when the NDP tabled a copy of the Multicultural Strategic Outreach Plan in the Legislature.
Lanigan’s letter mentioned a “very senior political aide close to the events” had told him Bonney had been “thrown under the bus,” that he deserved a break and his hiring would benefit the CTF.
Asked for the name of that aide, Lanigan would only say “it was someone who was very senior, close to the premier. That person probably wouldn’t be happy I wrote that.”
Besides Lanigan, two former B.C. directors of the CTF, Jordan Bateman and Gregory Thomas, also wrote letters in support of Bonney. No BC Liberal politician wrote in Bonney’s favour, but his Mainland Communications partner, Mark Robertson, did. Robertson and Bonney were fined $5,000 in 2016 under the Election Act for financing irregularities in the 2012 Port Moody by-election.
Lanigan said the CTF did not help fund Bonney’s legal defence, nor was it asked to.
But what about the optics of the anti-waste/anti-corruption CTF employing a former civil servant that St. Pierre described as being involved in “a kind of political corruption”?
Lanigan reiterated that the CTF is “concerned about proper and ethical use of tax dollars” and pointed to the BC Liberals’ repayment to the public treasury of half of Bonney’s $140,000 salary.
“Partisan goings-on in the Legislature should be cleaned up,” he said. “Maybe this is a wake-up call to that.”
St. Pierre’s ruling acknowledged Bonney’s reputation suffered in the five years since the scandal broke. Court files indicate that the 55-year-old’s father Richard and one of his two brothers, Colin, passed away last year. Bonney’s marriage of 31 years produced five children, now aged 18 to 27. Four of his offspring continue to live at his residence, and two of them invited their partners to live there.
Submissions from Donaldson say Bonney has had a long association with Scouts Canada and the Rotary Club. More recently, he has volunteered with the First Nations Education Foundation to preserve and revitalize aboriginal languages.
Postmedia and theBreaker successfully applied to St. Pierre for access to court exhibits from the case, though several pages were withheld and St. Pierre banned publication of home addresses, phone numbers and email addresses.
He did not order redaction of Bonney’s address. In court, however, Donaldson quietly used scissors to remove it from a copy of Bonney’s resume in the court file.
In his conclusion, St. Pierre wrote that: “The message to be passed on to other public servants in similar situations is that while there may be unfair and undeserved employment consequences for saying, ‘No Minister’, these consequences pale in comparison to the ones being experienced by Mr. Bonney right now.”
Bonney left the courthouse on his own, two hours after he was sentenced. But he did not answer any questions from reporters.
“I kinda wish he’d talk, too,” Lanigan said. “I understand he wants to get this all behind him and move forward. It’s had a hell of a toll on him personally and his family and everything in between. I feel for my friend, I really do.”
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