Judge strikes down proposed class action lawsuit aimed at BC Liberal Party

It claimed former government unjustly enriched itself by spending taxes on partisan advertising

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has struck down a proposed class action lawsuit against the BC Liberal Party that claimed the former provincial government unjustly enriched itself by spending tax money on non-essential, pre-election partisan advertising.

Justice Ward Branch, in his April 10 judgment in Vancouver noted the plaintiff was David Trapp, 63, a Canadian citizen and B.C. resident who “pleads that he has paid taxes throughout his working life and retirement.”

Branch agreed with the BC Liberals’ counsel that the proposed class action should be struck on grounds it disclosed no “reasonable cause of action.” The claim had not yet been certified as a class proceeding.

Trapp alleged the former provincial Liberal government “engaged in taxpayer-funded partisan and non-essential advertising” prior to the May 14, 2013 provincial general election and continued to do so after it won. The same allegations applied concerning spending in the lead-up to the May 9, 2017 election.

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The judge also agreed with the defendants’ position that the political party “is not proper defendant and that the plaintiff has failed to plead a proper cause of action against it.”

Trapp proposed to launch a class action civil claim on behalf of “all individual, private, taxpaying citizens of the Province of British Columbia, wherever they reside,” claiming the former Liberal government breached its fiduciary duty to taxpayers by diverting tax money to the party to “commit the conversion.”

Branch noted that “once tax dollars enter the government’s coffers, it would not be proper to characterize those as ‘goods of the plaintiff.’ Rather they become the property of the government.”

He also found an “absence of a proper pleading of damage on the part of the proposed class.

“As the plaintiff emphasized in their argument, they are not actually seeking a return of their tax dollars, but simply a redirection of the funds to more worthy government causes,” he wrote in his reasons for judgment. “I find that this desire to simply control the government’s decision-making power does not qualify as ‘damage’ in the sense contemplated by a common law conspiracy claim.”

On the matter of “unjust enrichment, Branch said, Canadian law permits recovery for this if a plaintiff can establish there was an enrichment or benefit to the defendant and a corresponding deprivation of the plaintiff.

“The only ‘deprivation’ alleged is the failure of the government to expends its funds on other worthy causes, although the plaintiff does not specify what exactly those causes should be,” the judge observed. “I find that this is not the type of deprivation contemplated by an action for unjust enrichment. Taxpayers cannot generally control how government funds are spent. There is no guarantee that any monies spent on other objects would necessarily be spent on causes favoured by each and every taxpayer. Indeed, it is virtually assured that they will not be.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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