Disclosure forms document BC Liberal MLAs’ travel junkets to Taiwan and China

Premier claims no gifts and no Kelowna residence in annual public disclosure statements

Six BC Liberal MLAs travelled together on an all-expenses paid trip to Taiwan last December, and two others went to China, according to their annual public disclosure statements.

MLAs must annually report, and regularly update, their income sources, assets, liabilities and gifts annually to Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser, who files filtered reports to the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.

Dan Ashton (Penticton), Marvin Hunt (Surrey Panorama), John Martin (Chilliwack), Don McRae (Comox Valley), Darryl Plecas (Abbotsford South), Jane Thornthwaite (North Vancouver Seymour) reported receiving return airfare, accommodation, meals, local transportation and venue fees worth $6,100 each from the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office in Vancouver. They visited the democratic island nation, considered a rebel province by China, from December 2-9, 2015.

Marc Dalton reported a visit to China valued at approximately $4,097 on unspecified dates last June. The return airfare, internal travel, accommodations and meals were reportedly paid for by his Maple Ridge-Mission Riding Association.

Richmond Steveston MLA John Yap went to Fujian Province in China, August 15-20. His accommodation and meals, worth $1,500, were paid by the Overseas Chinese Affairs Department, which keeps tabs on Chinese living abroad.

Yap also reported a $3,950 trip in 2014 from the Central Government of China and Provincial Government of Fujian.

International Trade Minister Teresa Wat’s form shows that, while she represents Richmond Centre, her residence is in Burnaby. She also owns investment property on the 12th floor of Wall Centre False Creek.

Wat reported receiving a $500 Huawei P8 GRA-L09 cellphone gift from Huawei Canada on November 6, 2015.

Wat and Premier Christy Clark toured Huawei’s Shenzhen headquarters on November 8, 2015, where the telecommunications equipment giant announced it would open a lab at Telus’ Vancouver headquarters.

Huawei is prohibited from bidding on government contracts in U.S. and Australia over national security concerns. The South China Morning Post reported in May that two non-executive staffers were denied Canadian visas.

NDP MLAs Sue Hammell (Surrey Green Timbers), Bruce Ralston (Surrey Whalley) and Jane Shin (Burnaby Lougheed) travelled to Seoul, South Korea, October 23-30, 2015. Their forms list “gifts and personal benefits of no commercial value” that were received on the tour, including meals, receptions, protocol gifts and museum tours.

Environment Minister Mary Polak had the biggest travel gift of any B.C. MLA during the past year: $7,360 from the International Monetary Fund to attend and present at the Responding to the Challenge of Climate Change conference in Lima, Peru, in October 2015.

Almost a year after the Mount Polley tailings pond disaster, Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett received a $395 stone sculpture from operator Imperial Metals (TSX:III) on July 27, 2015, at a signing ceremony.

NDP leader John Horgan’s gifts register shows an $800 Jung Hong Kim carved pottery vase from the Korean-Canadian Pottery Group, a $300 “Eagle in Flight” red cedar panel carving from the CUPE annual convention and a $250 return flight from Vancouver to Knight Inlet Lodge for a grizzly bear watching tour. Horgan has promised that an NDP government would ban the trophy hunting of grizzlies.

The biggest gift on Horgan’s disclosure was a $2,500 accommodation, program fees and meals package at the Emilia-Romagna Co-Operative Study Program in Bologna, Italy. The package was donated by Vancity, but Horgan paid for airfare.

Clark, meanwhile, reported no gifts.

Her form mentions that she receives a leader’s allowance from the BC Liberals, which the party confirmed last spring was $50,000 a year. Clark also owns residential property and a half-interest in recreational property. The form doesn’t say so, but Clark owns a $1.7 million house near Vancouver city hall and shares a house and land on Galiano Island worth $720,000 with her brother, Bruce. Clark represents the Westside-Kelowna riding, but does not have any real estate there. She tends to fly-in and fly-out on same-day private charters with her entourage.

Business in Vancouver revealed last month that Clark is living in a $3.7 million house on the far west side of the Vancouver Quilchena riding. The premier’s office says Clark pays $5,500 to $6,500 a month rent and that she discussed the tenancy with Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser. Fraser, however, refused to answer BIV questions about the matter.

The house is owned by Nevin Sangha, who manages Vancouver Whitecaps owner Greg Kerfoot’s real estate portfolio.

The Whitecaps play at provincially owned BC Place Stadium.