'Quick wins' case adds scrutiny on last B.C. Liberal leader vote—and this week's
Former Liberal Finance Minister Kevin Falcon warns current leadership race shouldn't repeat the "irregularities" of the past — that may have helped Clark into the Premier's office
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A judge is set to hand down his sentence Wednesday for Brian Bonney, the B.C. Liberal operative guilty of breach of trust related to the Christy Clark government’s “quick wins” ethnic outreach scandal.
But Bonney’s hearings this month — coincidentally near the end of the party’s six-way race to replace Clark as leader this Saturday — are raising questions about how Clark actually came to power seven years ago, and how secure the upcoming online vote to replace her is.
As Metro reported, Crown special prosecutor David Butcher revealed in court this month a 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,” Butcher said. Heading the scheme was the only MLA backing her: Harry Bloy.
That revelation now has her one-time leadership rival Kevin Falcon crying foul. Clark beat him by just 340 points, four per cent of party voters, ushering her into British Columbia’s Premiership.
“I'd heard variations of allegations like this,” Falcon, whom Clark named finance minister, told Metro. “My team felt very upset as they were seeing irregularities, but there was no way I was going to make allegations to anyone without hard evidence.
“It's just not the way I am. I'm not going to be a poor loser.”
But what the special prosecutor uncovered in his investigation of the Liberals’ later “quick wins” scheme was “very troubling,” Falcon admitted.
“But I’m sorry to say I’m not surprised,” he said. “What you see here really speaks to a lack of transparency and integrity in the process that is highly problematic.
“It's unfortunate … the stakes were so high, and the Premiership was in play."
None of the 2011 bulk PIN voting allegations has been tested in court; Bonney's defence agreed with the Crown's statement of facts. Butcher noted the scheme was not illegal. Bloy, who resigned in 2012 after leaking a reporter’s email to a private company, did not respond to several interview requests.
Does Falcon worry he might have unfairly been denied the Premiership of B.C.?
“I'm not a bitter person that spends time looking in the rear-view mirror,” he said. “We just need to make sure that in future parties are required to have the kind of transparency and integrity in their voting process that ensures there can be no suggestion of irregularity that could cloud the results.”
It wasn’t just Falcon’s team who were upset. Two weeks before the 2011 vote, third-place finisher George Abbott’s campaign wrote to the party about “very strong concerns regarding the membership sign-up process,” according to a letter obtained by Metro, citing “inadequate processes in place to validate that new membership sign-ups were legitimate and eligible, a gap that would open the door to potential fraudulent behaviour.”
Metro was unable to independently verify if bulk proxy voting was against party rules at the time, and party executive director Emile Scheffel said he doesn't have a copy of the 2011 policy.
But Falcon alleged the party “had very clear rules at the time … you were not allowed to obtain bulk PINs from people who were signed up … Now there is conclusive evidence that these sort of irregularities took place.”
Scheffel wouldn’t comment on the 2011 vote, but said the RCMP approached the party last fall regarding its voting process; the Liberals then took “unprecedented steps to ensure the integrity of our membership database and the leadership race,” Scheffel said in an email.
Those steps include 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.”
The new rules prevent members "from allowing another person to use their voting credentials or otherwise vote in their place." And there are other security measures, Scheffel hinted, not being disclosed publicly.
“Every B.C. Liberal Party member — legitimate members who have taken an interest in the party and its leadership — wants to ensure that their vote matters,” Falcon said. “That there's absolutely no way that the integrity of the voting process is being undermined.”
Correction (Jan. 31): An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the B.C. Liberals' new voting rules. In fact, proxy voting is now prohibited.