FOLLOWING the announcement of a public inquiry into money laundering on Wednesday, BC Liberal Attorney General Critic Michael Lee and former Deputy Premier Rich Coleman were both asked if the BC Liberals will share relevant cabinet documents with the inquiry.
Both MLAs refused and inaccurately suggested the matter was out of their control, said the NDP. In fact, former finance minister Mike de Jong has the power to disclose the documents, but has also refused to do so. Attorney General David Eby first made the request to waive cabinet confidence in August.
Lee refused to answer direct questions, saying they were “premature.” Lee even questioned “whether [Justice Cullen] has the jurisdiction” to compel the disclosure of those documents.
Reporter: The Premier has asked again, I think this is the third time, that the Liberals wave cabinet confidentiality. Just wondering, are you willing now to say that that will happen and that those documents that were produced for cabinet during the Liberal government would be available to this commission?
Lee: This will be something for Justice Cullen to determine. With the inquiry and the terms of reference that have been set out. Clearly he’ll be operating within the parameters of the Inquiry Act as well. So it’ll be up to him to determine which documents and which witnesses he’ll want to call.
Reporter: Do you have the power to get cabinet documents?
Lee: Well that’s something with the scope of the terms of reference and the Inquiry Act, it’s something that he’ll determine whether he has the jurisdiction to do that under the terms of those references as well as the statute itself.
Reporter: But the Liberals have the power to waive privilege. So is that something that the Liberal caucus is willing to do now?
Lee: Well again, this is something that will need to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Clearly, I think it’s premature to be addressing this question at this time. It’s going to be something that the commission will need to determine. In terms of, again, which witnesses he’ll want to call and what information he’ll require. And each witness of course will be entitled to have legal counsel in dealing with those requests.
The NDP said Coleman pretended that the Attorney General could access the documents at any time:
Reporter: What about cabinet documents? Should your Caucus waive privilege and allow those documents to be accessed by the Commissioner?
Coleman: That’s usually done through the Attorney General’s office, not through the Caucus. There’s a keeper of documents after every government turns over and it’s not us that influences that decision.
Reporter: Okay, they’ve written twice to your party asking, so is that the wrong approach for them?
Coleman: Well I think the inquiry now, I haven’t seen the terms of reference and I don’t – I’ve just been to the funeral as you know I’ve just got back and had some guests – so I haven’t actually seen any of the terms of reference relative to the inquiry so it’s a bit premature for me to give you an answer on that piece. But I’ll read it this afternoon.
NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon said: “It’s astonishing that Andrew Wilkinson is more concerned with protecting his own interests than in tackling the dirty money that is driving up housing costs and fueling crime. It’s time for the BC Liberals to disclose these documents to help government and the Commissioner stop money laundering and hold people accountable.”