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Van Dongen turns down free enterprise invite

The B.C. Liberal Party has invited John van Dongen to Free Enterprise Friday, part of its weekend convention in Whistler, but the Abbotsford South MLA has turned down his old party.

“I strongly support free enterprise, but I cannot attend this event when nothing has changed with the B.C. Liberal government on the issues that caused me to resign from the BC Liberal Caucus,” said van Dongen in press release Friday morning. “The government has talked about openness and transparency but has not put it into practice.”

In March, van Dongen announced he was leaving the Liberal party to sit as the lone B.C. Conservative party MLA in the legislature. In September, he left the Conservatives and now sits as an independent MLA.

In both high-profile departures, van Dongen cited concerns with party leadership.

Van Dongen said Friday that Premier Christy Clark has not come clean on her direct involvement in the BC Rail corruption file but has simply repeated the denials she made during the BC Liberal leadership race.

“Attorney-General Shirley Bond and former Attorney General Mike de Jong still need to properly explain how and why $6 million in legal fees was forgiven for Dave Basi and Bob Virk, contrary to established government policy,” he said.

Basi and Virk were ministerial aides who faced corruption charges. They pleaded guilty to selling insider information to parties interested in the 2003 sale of BC Rail.

Also raising questions for van Dongen is the government’s Oct. 1 denial of an environmental assessment certificate for the Morrison copper/gold mine near Smithers. One of the long-term investors in the project is van Dongen’s constituent.

“In rejecting the application, the government overrode and ignored the technical findings of its own environmental assessment process. There are obvious inconsistencies in the EAO (Environmental Assessment Office) documents that cause me concern. This so-called free enterprise government has hurt the credibility of both the EAO and the investment climate in this province for mining and other capital-intensive resource industries,” he said.

“Free enterprise doesn’t work if people cannot have confidence and trust in the integrity of their provincial government."

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