Boundary-Similkameen MLA John Slater has found himself in the centre of a political whirlwind once again, alleging that his personal communications have been leaked.
But rather than pursue a full investigation into the alleged leak, Slater is now saying he would rather let the controversy die, though he does plan to approach Speaker of the House Bill Barisoff about an internal investigation.
“I want this thing to go away,” said Slater. “I don’t want to go out in the public with this thing, I don’t want to hire a special prosecutor or involve the RCMP or anything like that, because they are just going to dig, dig, dig.”
Central to the issue, according to Slater, is a phone conversation he had with Premier Christy Clark earlier this week.
“I talked to the premier on Tuesday and she wants me back in caucus, make sure we are all united and voting to pass the budget,” said Slater, who resigned from the Liberal caucus on Jan. 14 to sit as an independent, after the party refused to endorse his candidacy for the May provincial election.
Slater said he was reluctant to accept the offer at the time and has since said he will not be rejoining the Liberals.
“I’ve got issues in my riding, I’ve got 100s of members that haven’t renewed their membership, I’ve got people that are ticked off at the Liberals. I feel that my responsibility is to them, not to the B.C. liberal party,” said Slater. “Especially with the way I feel the leaders of the Liberals have really betrayed me over the past six months.
“I’m not considering it. It’s my credibility that is in jeopardy if I go back and start helping the people that have betrayed me and my local supporters. I just can’t do that in all conscience.”
But within two hours of the conversation, blogger Alex Tsakumis posted information about it, with the additional information that the Liberals had ordered copies of Slater’s government text, phone and email records.
“It certainly wasn’t from me and it wasn’t anyone that overheard me. I was in my apartment, not even in my office,” said Slater. “My thoughts are that there is leakage in our communication systems. The information that is out there is private information.”
Tsakumis said the source of his information was much more prosaic, coming from a contact who overheard a public conversation between Slater and his administrative assistant. However, the tip about Slater’s communication records did come from an inside source.
“I heard that from a government source in Victoria, who was rightly appalled. Slater is not running, so who cares? Why would these guys be doing it?” asked Tsakumis, who is of the opinion that someone in the party wanted the records as leverage.
“They were going to see if they could somehow snooker him into voting for the budget,” said Tsakumis. The Liberals have a slim five seat majority, down from 13 seats when they took office in 2009.
“The government has absolutely no business doing that (ordering copies of his records). I am an independent,” said Slater, adding that he has been talking to the other three independent MLAs. “Are our conversations, emails, texts between the four of us, are they shared with government, are they out there for the people to look at or to hear?”
Slater is concerned about private emails made to family and friends on his government Blackberry being made public, but also admitted to concern that an investigation might bring to light other information alluded to in January by Tsakumis.
“That is part of it. Who else am I going to hurt?” said Slater. “If I just let this thing drop and say I am not going back to the Liberal caucus, end of story, let it die, then I have a lot more credibility with my followers in Boundary-Similkameen and the Okanagan, that I am not trying to make waves and ruffle feathers, and things like that.”
Tsakumis never made his earlier information public and claims to have since destroyed the records. But on Jan. 21, less than a week after his original blog post directed at Slater and NDP candidate Marji Basso, both announced they had decided not to run in the May 2013 provincial election.
– Story by Steve Kidd, Penticton Western News