Friday, December 19, 2008

2 Liberal MLA's Being Investigated by RCMP

This story seems to be fairly quiet, definitely no front pagers for this,
at least online.

Last night, while watching the early news, the anchor hyped a story
that would appear in today's Vancouver Sun about two MLA's being
investigated by the RCMP. She didn't say who they were, why they
were being investigated, or anything else. I'm not sure what's on the
front pages of the mainstream media, but the story had to be searched
out online, with no headlines on any front pages.

Rich Coleman & Mary Polak are being "investigated" within the Liberal party for their unregistered endorsement of a slate of Langley school board candidates in October's municipal elections.

Note that Smyth didn't mention there is a RCMP investigation underway as well, examining Coleman, Polak AND the BC Liberal party. Pretty shoddy "journalism" for a 'professional journalist.' Daphne Bramham story is a lot heavier on details, adding to her credibility, amongst the dwindling cred of other CanWest hacks. See all stories below before the 'disappear'into the ether.

Another part of the complaint is that it is alleged Langley council candidate Jordan Bateman (vice president of Coleman's riding association), received access to BC Liberal constituency membership lists, which contained the names,phone numbers and addresses of those in the riding.

From Bateman's website:

September 9, 2007
Jordan has been re-elected vice president of Rich Coleman's Fort Langley-Aldergrove BC Liberal constituency association.

Bateman's Blog: Langley Politics Dotcom

Seems as though the mysterious Community Development ministry doesn't
have anyone set up to actually investigate complaints into adherence to
provincially enacted legislation, not an uncommon finding for other BC
Liberal governmental organizations.

Just try and make a complaint regarding community licensed facilities.
As many have found out, it's all hollow, looks legit from the outside,
empty and buck-passing behind the mirror.

Ministry of Community Development

Local Government Department

Local Government Act

Division 17 - Election Offences

"Vote Buying"
Sec. 151 (1) In this section, "inducement" includes money, gift, valuable consideration, refreshment, entertainment, office, placement, employment and any other benefit of any kind.

(2) A person must not pay, give, lend or procure inducement for any of the following purposes:

(a) to induce a person to vote or refrain from voting;

(b) to induce a person to vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular candidate;

(c) to reward a person for having voted or refrained from voting as described in paragraph (a) or (b);

(d) to procure or induce a person to attempt to procure the election of a particular candidate, the defeat of a particular candidate or a particular result in an election;

(e) to procure or induce a person to attempt to procure the vote of an elector or the failure of an elector to vote.

(3) A person must not accept inducement

(a) to vote or refrain from voting,

(b) to vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular candidate, or

(c) as a reward for having voted or refrained from voting as described in paragraph (a) or (b).

(4) A person must not advance, pay or otherwise provide inducement, or cause inducement to be provided, knowing or with the intent that it is to be used for any of the acts prohibited by this section.

(5) A person must not offer, agree or promise to do anything otherwise prohibited by this section.

(6) A person prohibited from doing something by this section must not do the prohibited act directly, indirectly or by another person on behalf of the first person.

Police investigate election activities of cabinet ministers

Janet Steffenhagen 12-19-2008.

Police are investigating two cabinet ministers, the Liberal Party of B.C. and a Langley parent group to determine whether they violated the Local Government Act during the municipal election.

The ministers are Rich Coleman and Mary Polak, who endorsed several people seeking election to the Langley board of education in the days leading up to the Nov. 15 vote. A group called Parents for Independent Trustees backed their endorsation.

The cabinet ministers, the party and the parent group were not registered as campaigners.

The police investigation began after former trustee Sonya Paterson filed a complaint alleging that some candidates had access to Liberal constituency membership lists. Read Sun columnist Daphne Bramham's full report here. The Province's Michael Smyth also writes about the issue today.

Officials investigate ministers
Complaint about endorsement
Michael Smyth, The Province. Published: Friday, December 19, 2008.

B.C. cabinet ministers Rich Coleman and Mary Polak say they did nothing wrong by endorsing a slate of school board candidates in last month's municipal election in Langley, despite a complaint they may have breached the Local Government Act.

Sources say officials are investigating a complaint that Coleman, Polak and the B.C. Liberal Party should have registered as official "campaign organizers or elector organizations" when the two cabinet ministers endorsed a group of candidates for the Langley board.

"We allowed our pictures and our endorsements to appear in an ad by the candidates, but the candidates themselves paid for the ads," Polak said.

"I think this is a misunderstanding. We didn't take out the ad, the candidates did."

Polak said she and Coleman believed that by endorsing the candidates they were not contravening the Local Government Act, but she has since asked the Liberal Party head office to clarify the rules. She said she's still waiting for the clarification and she has not been contacted by the RCMP or anyone else about the matter.

But a Liberal official said last night there may be a "technical investigation" of the matter under way as a result of a citizen complaint about the involvement of Coleman and Polak in the local election.

Polak suggested that some of her political enemies may be making mischief on the issue and noted that she's aware of NDP MLAs helping municipal candidates in Surrey.
© The Vancouver Province 2008

Two B.C. cabinet ministers probed by RCMP
Complaint alleges their endorsements of civic candidates broke election rules

Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun
Published: Friday, December 19, 2008

Two B.C. cabinet ministers, the Liberal Party of B.C. and a Langley parents' group are under investigation by RCMP after a complaint alleged that they violated sections of the Local Government Act during November's municipal election.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman and Healthy Living and Sports Minister Mary Polak endorsed a slate of school board candidates in three newspaper ads along with a group called Parents for Independent Trustees. In the ads, the six candidates were described as "strong ethical leaders."

The Local Government Act requires that anyone who augments the election campaign of one or more candidates by endorsing them or by opposing the selection of other candidates must register "as soon as reasonably possible" after a candidate is declared.

The campaign or elector organization must also file financial disclosure documents.

None of those filings has been made by either minister, by the parents' group or by the Liberal party.

Penalties for contravening those sections of the act include: a fine of not more than $5,000; imprisonment for not longer than one year; a prohibition on holding an elected local government office for up to six years; and, a prohibition on voting in local elections for up to six years.

It's also possible that the trustees who benefited from the endorsement could be disqualified from holding office until after the next election.

In a written complaint filed this week, Sonya Paterson also asked RCMP to investigate rumours that some candidates had access to Liberal constituency membership lists of mailing addresses and phone numbers.

"One of the township councillor candidates (Jordan Bateman) is the president of Rich Coleman's [constituency] executive," Paterson noted in her letter to RCMP Supt. Janice Armstrong.

Bateman topped the polls in the council election, while four of the six candidates endorsed in the ads were elected as school trustees.

Interestingly, in 1996 Coleman attacked former NDP cabinet minister Penny Priddy for endorsing school board candidates. Even though Priddy's letter contained no mention of her position, Coleman said: "This puts a real partisan side on her ministry and her government. I don't think it's acceptable."

Coleman went on to say that if other candidates won, "How does she expect to work with them in the future?"

Paterson, the complainant, is a former trustee who ran unsuccessfully for council. She is also a longtime member of the Liberal party. She has financially supported both Coleman in his Langley riding and Polak in her riding of Fort Langley-Aldergrove.

In fact, it's because of her Liberal ties that Paterson is so angry about what she sees as interference in the municipal election.

"In the last polls, the NDP were ahead. So what part of this is going to play in the [Liberal] party's favour in the spring? This issue has caused so much fury out here that it's divided the community."

Paterson is the second citizen to force a police investigation since the November municipal elections under new regulations passed earlier in 2008 that pertain especially to special-interest groups and groups that act like quasi-political parties.

The first complaint was filed in West Vancouver by Michael Lewis, a successful council candidate, and his campaign manager, David Marley. Their complaint was aimed at the West Vancouver Citizens for Good Government and the Low Tax, Low Growth Association. Both of those groups also raised money, advertised and endorsed candidates without registering.

The other similarity is that initially, complainants met with some resistance from police, who had no idea that they were responsible for enforcing the election provisions of the Local Government Act.

But they seem to be, since no other agency claims responsibility for ensuring that election rules are enforced. Officials in the Community Development Ministry, which is responsible for the act, say it's not up to them. Rather, they say, it's up to citizens to complain and police to investigate those complaints.

Free and fair elections are at the very root of a democracy. It seems incredible that such a fundamental part of our democratic system would be left to individual citizens to oversee.

It most certainly is not an individual's responsibility at other levels of government, where independent agencies are set up specifically to ensure that there is no buying and selling of seats. It is the full-time job of Elections BC and Elections Canada to monitor candidates, their financial agents, political parties and special-interest groups to ensure everyone is following the rules.

It makes no sense that no similar agency protects the integrity of municipal elections. Just last week, Premier Gordon Campbell told me that it might be possible for Elections BC to take on the role of independent monitor.

But he also said he'd never heard any complaints about lack of enforcement of municipal election regulations.

Funny, that. Paterson says she and others called Campbell's Victoria and Vancouver offices a couple of times. Paterson even wrote the premier a letter.

The calls and letters apparently didn't get to the premier. But perhaps now, with police investigations underway in two B.C. municipalities, Campbell has got the message.
© The Vancouver Sun 2008.

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