Watchdog ‘astounded’ at Rich Coleman’s casino donation comments

Former B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman says government did 'everything we could' to prevent money laundering.
Former B.C. Solicitor General Rich Coleman says government did 'everything we could' to prevent money laundering. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

A B.C.-based political watchdog group is taking aim at former solicitor general Rich Coleman, over comments he made regarding donations to the BC Liberals from the gaming industry.

Questions about the BC Liberals handling of the gaming file have been swirling since the government released an independent report into money laundering in B.C. casinos, which referred to a “decade of dirty money” under the former government.

Speaking on CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show Thursday, Coleman was quizzed about donations to the party from casinos and appeared to suggest that the party had disavowed them.

“I do know it was in our constitution for years that we would not take any donations from gaming companies, so all during my tenure that was the way it was, so we never did,” Coleman said.

LISTEN: Was there money flowing to the former government from casinos?

Story continues below advertisement

Speaking on The Jon McComb Show Friday, Dermod Travis, executive director of Integrity B.C., said he was “astounded” to hear the claim.

Travis said the party had taken in huge sums of money from the gaming sector since the mid-2000s, pointing to media reports about the issue going back as far back as 2008.

“What I think is more notable, frankly, with what Rich said yesterday, is that the two main casino companies that were named in the German report donated in excess of $347,000 in the period of time from 2015 to 2017,” Travis said.

Elections B.C. political contribution disclosures show that Gateway Casinos & Entertainment donated $218,902 to the BC Liberal Party between 2015 and 2017, and that the Great Canadian Gaming Corp. had donated $127,413 during that period.

LISTEN: Talking to former Solicitor General Rich Coleman about the German report on money laundering

Story continues below advertisement

Strictly speaking, that period wasn’t during Coleman’s tenure as minister responsible for gaming. By 2014, that job had been taken over by Mike de Jong.

Travis argued that even if that was the case, it was disingenuous for Coleman to appear to suggest he knew nothing of it.

“To imagine that the deputy premier, Rich Coleman, didn’t know that there was a donor out there who was donating literally tens of thousands of dollars every year, a donor who in fact sponsored their 2016 convention, I’m astounded he would make the claim,” he said.

Travis noted that Coleman himself had even received a donation — albeit a small one, for $390 — from Gateway Casinos in 2015.

The BC Liberals are not the only party to collect substantial donations from major gaming corporations.

Elections BC records show the BC NDP have accepted $77,223 from Gateway since 2013, and $47,000 from Great Canadian going back as far as 2006.

Sponsored content