News / Vancouver

Four B.C. Liberal leadership campaigns accuse Todd Stone of signing up 'invalid' members

Rival candidates demand B.C. Liberal Party address their concerns over "invalid or rejected memberships"

Todd Stone speaks during the B.C Liberal Leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday January 23, 2018.

BEN NELMS / The Canadian Press

Todd Stone speaks during the B.C Liberal Leadership debate in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday January 23, 2018.

B.C. Liberal leadership hopeful Todd Stone's campaign has been hit with allegations it may have signed up "invalid or rejected memberships" in his bid to replace former leader Christy Clark.

The complaint, which has not been independently verified, is addressed to the party's rules committee from four of the former transport minister's rivals in the six-way race — the campaigns of Mike de Jong, Andrew Wilkinson, Michael Lee and Dianne Watts.

Metro previously reported on "irregularities" in online voting and member sign-up the last time the party held a leadership race in 2011. At the end of that race, Clark won by just four per cent. The RCMP approached the party last fall, advising it to strengthen its leadership vote integrity.

The four complainants demand the party reveal what exactly it discussed in a recent meeting about the Stone campaign.

"In the interest of transparency to our membership," the letter stated, "we the undersigned request immediate disclosure of the specific nature of the allegations heard at these meetings, any and all decisions or conclusion.

"… The issue related to invalid or rejected memberships collected by the Todd Stone leadership campaign."

According to B.C. Liberal executive director Emile Scheffel, "In the lead-up to the vote, our verification and audit measures remain ongoing." He listed “unprecedented steps" including appointing former Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant to oversee and scrutinize voting, verifying voters’ identities, and requiring all voters to register to ensure that voting PINs were “obtained by the correct person,” and preventing members from voting as another member's proxy.

"We won’t be weighing in on claims regarding any specific campaign," he told Metro in an email. "… The party has implemented a rigorous verification, audit, and registration process designed to ensure the integrity of our membership database and the leadership vote."

Scheffel confirmed the revelation by David Butcher — the Crown special prosecutor who investigated the party's "quick wins" ethnic outreach scandal while in government — in court this month that the RCMP approached the party last fall to advise it on improving leadership vote integrity.

During the breach of trust sentencing of former B.C. Liberal operations director Brian Bonney this January, Butcher revealed a 2011 scheme in which Clark’s supporters “gathered blocks of personal identification numbers” for online voting from “ethnic communities,” and “entered them online, block voting in a proxy manner."

The new complaint related to membership sign-ups comes just days before the three-day online leadership voting opens. Party members in good standing can start voting Thursday at 9 a.m. Online polls close 5 p.m. Saturday, and Scheffel said the party hopes to announce its new leader by 7 p.m.

"The integrity of the upcoming leadership vote is critical to the long-term reputation of our party," this week's complaint letter stated. "In the interest of transparency to our membership, we the undersigned request immediate disclosure of the specific nature of the allegations heard at these meetings, any and all decisions or conclusions, and any resulting remedies or penalties arising."

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