Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Saanich-Gulf Islands - perhaps not quite Ground Zero after all

Saanich Gulf Islands in 2008 is widely perceived by many to be "ground zero for election fraud in Canada", as Elizabeth May puts it. Not only did the perps successfully pull it off but Elections Canada's botched investigation demonstrated it could be done in future elections with impunity.

The scam comes in two parts. (Wet coasters may want to skip this bit.)
Environmentalist and SGI Lib candidate Briony Penn lost in the 2008 election when robocalls from the US spoofed the NDP campaign number and encouraged SGI voters to vote for the NDP candidate who had very publicly dropped out 3 weeks earlier but too late to have his name removed from the ballot. Some 3700 voted for him and Con MP/TarSands Minister Gary Lunn bested Penn by a 2,625 vote margin. 

The alternative theory is that pissed off NDP voters voted for their candidate anyway to spite the Liberals who outed him for inappropriate skinny dipping and body painting behavior 12 years earlier in 1996, causing him to drop out of the race. 
“The Liberal Party did that,” the director of communications for the Liberals B.C. campaign Brad Zubyk said, though he denied deserving credit himself. “It's all public domain. Quite frankly, we don't apologize for it. None of this is particularly hard to find.”

Either way, Elections Canada closed their investigation after failing to determine whether anyone "had actually been influenced in their vote because of the purported telephone call", and because "evidence of the actual source of the calls and the person or persons who made them would be required."   
Same reasons EC gave for concluding their election fraud investigation in 2011. 

2) Third party advertisers. 
Your previously unheard-of go-to people when a campaign has maxed out their allowable EC spending limit and there's a need for a last minute proxy ad buy in local papers and radio before Election Day, after which they vanish in a puff of smoke til next election.
Of the 50 odd third-party groups registered with Elections Canada in 308 ridings across Canada in 2008, five were registered in Saanich-Gulf Islands. The first four on the list below all shared the same financial agent and registered under the law firm address and phone number of Bruce Hallsor - former Canadian Alliance Party candidate, Gary Lunn supporter, and Conservative riding association VP . 

Before Andrew MacLeod at The Tyee added Citizens Against Higher Taxes to his list, there were only four on it. At that time Hallsor told him that while Dickinson of Saanich Peninsula Citizens Council :
"did some advertising in 2006 - the other three were new for this election."
Not that new.

In 2006 in Victoria - the riding right next to SGI - crown prosecutor and Con MP-hopeful Robin Baird got some election advertising help from Common Sense Advocacy of VictoriaOn their January 2006 Elections Canada Third Party Advertising Report, Common Sense Advocacy lists Donna Evans as financial agent and the address is once again ... wait for it ...   Bruce Hallsor's law office.  

Donna Evans is married to Robert Evans, Gary Lunn's fundraising chair for Saanich-Gulf Islands electoral district association. Lunn's VP was Bruce Hallsor and his riding president was then-Environment Minister Jim Prentice's sister.   
MacLeod :
"Robert Evans is the vice-president of Community Marine Concepts, which is seeking a license from the province to occupy 2.63 hectares of Victoria Harbour with a marina for 80-foot to 120-foot yachts.  The company is working on the proposal with Alberta-based WAM Development Group. Getting the license requires approvals from various provincial and federal agencies ... Hallsor has registered to lobby on behalf of WAM."
and is still the registered lobbyist for WAM in 2015 : 
  • Application of transport regulations related to use of the Victoria Harbour

G&M : "... when a minister gets lobbied by his own campaign manager, who is acting for his fundraiser, it certainly looks bad. "

Likewise, when local opponents to the mega-marina ask the riding president's brother, the Environment Minister, for an environmental assessment and are refused - also not good.

In 2006 Bruce Hallsor formed the BC Conservative Club ; by 2009 he was also the BC Liberal constituency association president for Victoria – Beacon Hill. In a treatise I can no longer find online, Hallser argued that federal conservatives should vote for BC Liberals.  

It's a small, small, small LibCon world out here in BC. A lot of it is about money. I reckon the 'ground zero' elections shenanigans event horizon goes back further than most of us can remember.

Thursday Update : Deep Climate : Conservative Democracy Deficit on Vancouver Island
A very thorough and detailed look that I had read four years ago and forgotten about.


Anonymous said...

You have certainly done your homework on this one Alison, great work!

Progressive Conservatives and Centrist Liberals are interchangeable ideologies only defined by the party colours. Such a vapid waste of intelligent people.

scotty on denman said...

One of the reasons May chose SGI to focus the Greens' entire federal effort on was that weirder things than a Green victory---the one she got---had happened in 2008. Naturally it's nigh impossible, given the general weirdness of it all, to accurately analyze the results---and therefore easy to speculate. One factor I'd heard was a perception that gum-booter Briony Penn had somehow betrayed principle by running for the Liberals, that, of all parties, the Cons and Libs were both far and away the antitheses of what Briony Penn had been activating against.

I used to live over there, still visit from time to time, and it's still pretty different. Not often you see the lion's share of a full federal slate get concentrated so purposefully on one target. It 's simply a fact that it was successful, a won one, but one won for the first time anywhere. Will it pay double? Or will the Green's deploy in the adjacent riding(s) where the BC Greens had a very similar win provincially?

The skinny-dipper was actually a skinny dipper, though---that made sense, at least.

Alison said...

Anon : It was mostly Andrew MacLeod's old homework that you see here - I just hadn't seen it mentioned anywhere that a lot of it was about money. Unfortunate that its lessons did not translate beyond the Salish Sea.

re Progressive Conservatives and Centrist Liberals being a waste ..
I have some sympathy for those who are militantly middle, for want of a better term. Their message is primarily one of inclusiveness. It reminds me that my fallback lefty holier-than thou position often lacks that.

Scotty : There's a book yet to be written about that SGI election. So many interesting incidents ... the attempt by some Green execs to convince membership to not nominate a candidate at all, for instance, so as not to split the vote. That a Lib operative who used to be a Dipper operative outed the Dipper candidate's past but got the timing completely wrong.
Why don't you write it?

scotty on denman said...

I appreciate the encouragement, Alison---it's a fascinating topic, and SGI does seem to have (now) a bell-weatherish aspect to it. However, my chief interest there has to do with the Green phenomenon. I'm actually quite pleased the classic concentration of force worked for them; I've only condemned Green vote-splitting, not the Greens per se, and only used the BC Greens as a proxy criticism for how badly the NDP screwed up, as evidenced by the seminal Green win in BC. So my present interest in SGI is its acceptance of electoral unorthodoxy that makes enough sense for Greens at large to avoid, at least for the time being, splitting the anti-rightist vote in ridings where they have no chance of winning, and instead satisfying, again only for the time being, their legitimate desire for real achievement exemplified in the SGI---or, for that matter, Oak Bay provincially. The focus for me is voting out the neo-right scourge. Two more to go over the next two years.

Someday somebody will write a book about how the neo-rightist movement (stateless corporatist hegemony) ascended to the zenith of perfidy through expensive manipulation of sovereign democracies, and then, with perverse irony outed themselves into ignominious disgrace; the epilogue will tell of a new era germinated of lessons learned, and flourishing in the diversity of democratic cooperation. At that point I will be reminded of your SGI suggestion.

Thank you as always and be well.

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