VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – The Christy Clark government and BC Liberal Party are being sued for inappropriately using tax funding. Two Vancouver-based lawyers have filed action suggesting money that should be going to health care, education and other government services has been wasted on partisan ads.
David Fai and Paul Doroshenko have filed a Notice of Claim indicating as much as $15 million needs to be recovered.
Doroshenko says they’re acting on behalf of a concerned taxpayer seeking certification of this case as class action. “They’re spending our taxpayer money. Your money, my money, money that should go to hospitals and firefighters, to advertise the government to try to help their re-election hopes. That’s wrong. It’s a breach of the duty that they owe to taxpayers.”
Doroshenko explains how this case first came to his attention. “We have a lead client. He’s a person who has had some recent contact with government services through the health care system. He had cancer and he had surgery and he appreciated the people he dealt with. But it was very clear to him that resources are lacking and that the government should be putting that money into those resources. Instead, they are advertising that health care premiums are changing. Well, that’s non-essential advertisement. That’s advertisement that’s designed to promote a recent government policy of the Liberal government. He is angry about it. He’s a friend of mine, I’ve known him for a while and we were talking about this.”
He adds past governments were warned in 1996 and again in 2014 by BC’s Auditor General to stop doing this, so the first step is seeking an injunction to immediately bar partisan ads from running.
Fai and Doroshenko says they are acting on behalf of a concerned taxpayer, but they intend to seek certification of the lawsuit as a class action. “Our client seeks no personal gain in the sense of damages to him specifically. For the purpose of the lawsuit he will need to seek damages, but his goal is to have the BC Liberal Party reimburse the government for all of the advertising that is unnecessary and partisan in the months leading up to the election,” explains Doroshenko.
“We’re acting on behalf of the taxpayers here,” adds Fai. “This is in the public interest. The heavy lifting is being done by lawyers who are covering their own costs and paying for their staff and offices to advance this lawsuit for the benefit of British Columbians.”
A GoFundMe page has also been set up to help cover legal costs.
BC Government responds: issue should be addressed in the election
When asked for comment on the lawsuit, the BC Government sent NEWS 1130 a statement from Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson.
The Minister questions the timing of the litigation, adding “the issues should be addressed in the election and not in the court room.”
Short of a flat denial of the allegations, Wilkinson says the government has “worked with the Office of the Auditor General to ensure that all information campaigns fulfil (sic) clear criteria: be fact-based, inform the public about government programs, services, policies or priorities and provide an opportunity for the public to engage with government.
“The policy clearly states that public funds are not to be used for political advertising,” he concludes.
Wilkinson adds that public awareness campaigns are effective at informing the public about services and programs like proposed changes to MSP premiums, and the Single Parent Employment Initiative.