Liberal MLA Peter Fassbender is being criticized for handing out taxpayer money in a way that makes it look like the cash is coming from the BC Liberals, just over a week after he said he never should have done that in a previous instance.
On Sunday, Fassbender handed out a taxpayer-funded cheque worth $50,000 with other BC Liberal candidates in attendance.
That was just over a week after he presented two taxpayer-funded government cheques to a community group from his campaign office.
In an image posted on social media, BC Liberal signage and a photo of Premier Christy Clark could be seen in the background as Fassbender gave the cheque to members of the Surrey Newton Rotary Club.
Critics say the photo could give the impression that the money was coming from the BC Liberals rather than the provincial government.
“Time and time again, in a run-up to an election they are spending millions and millions of taxpayers’ dollars on self-promotion ads,” NDP MLA Mike Farnworth said. “They are going to events, turning them into partisan events when they should not be and they are betting that people don’t care.”
When questioned about the March 18 photo by a Vancouver Sun reporter, Fassbender said:
“I own this, I should never have done it. It’s a mistake and it will never happen again, I can assure you. I know the difference.”
“They don’t want to know the difference between what is a partisan event and what should be a non-partisan event,” Farnworth said. “The minister apologized last week but that doesn’t mean anything. We’ve seen with this government time and time again, they apologize and say ‘we won’t make the mistake again’ and yet they do it again and again and again.”
Paul Doroshenko is one of two Vancouver lawyers suing the government of British Columbia and the BC Liberal Party for using taxpayers’ money to advertise in advance of the May 9 provincial election.
He claims the B.C. government is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to enhance the image of the governing BC Liberal Party.
“It just smacks of approaching tyranny,” Doroshenko said. “The repercussions are just a small downside for them. They are looking at it and saying we get so much benefit spending this taxpayers’ money on advertising or giving out this taxpayers’ money at party events, that we’re willing to do it despite the criticism even if we get some blowback.”
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
A call to Fassbender was not returned.
– With files from Ted Chernecki and Yuliya Talmazan