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MLA defends money plan

BC LIBERAL allegations that NDP MLAs put money destined for  constituency use into a slush fund for political use are incorrect, says the NDP.

“They’re suggesting that somehow it was secret. It wasn’t secret at all,” said Skeena NDP MLA Robin Austin.

The party put together the fund with the advice of the comptroller of the legislature and the comptroller controlled it, he said.

“It was not in NDP hands. He collected the money from each of the constituencies and paid bills,” said Austin.

The fund was sanctioned by the provincial auditor general – the fund started back in 2007 – and he thought there was nothing wrong with it, he said.

BC NDP caucus chair Shane Simpson said the MLAs have a limited fund to run their constituency offices and it doesn’t allow for much in the way of outreach, or multicultural services said Simpson.

“There’s just not the resources there after you pay the rest of your bills,” he said.

Every NDP MLA agreed to put $200 a month, $2,400 a year, into a joint pool, which raised about $80,000 a year to be used for  multicultural services, he explained.

The decision was made to go through the legislature so the chief comptroller was contacted and said the fund was allowed and told them what they needed to do, said Simpson.

“We met those conditions and he administered the fund for us and did it through his office so it would be accountable in the legislature,” he said.

“Everything they spent money on was appropriate, not one dime went to the NDP.”

The money was for a range of multicultural services in every constituency, which is a challenge as every constituency is getting more multicultural  – some challenges deal with language, translation, or protocol for example, he said.

So the MLAs wanted to pool the money to provide a range of services to support work with people in those communities, he said.

The fund has been in place since early 2007 but has now been wrapped up with the election coming up, said Simpson.

Since the money belongs to individual MLAs, the money needs to go back to the ones retiring as they need to return any money left in their accounts to their constituencies, he said.

About $1,600 was returned to each NDP constituency.

Also, even if the fund was to continue after the election, it would have to start at the beginning where every MLA would have to agree to it, said Simpson.

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