BC Liberal leadership race – at least there are no cats involved

The BC Liberals have complained that their leadership race is not getting much attention. Now they get the kind of cover that no party wants

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VICTORIA – BC Liberals worried that their leadership race was being ignored by the news media, but now they are left with the kind of publicity no political party wants.

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The provincial opposition party faces calls to postpone next month’s leadership vote pending a full investigation into the fraudulent membership allegations.

At the same time, the party is accused of choosing members of the South Asian and Chinese communities for review and audit.

On one side, warning of potential damage to the party’s reputation, are six of the seven leadership contenders – MPs Ellis Ross, Michael Lee and Renee Merrifield, as well as outsiders Val Litwin, Stan Sipos and Gavin Dew.

On the other side is Kevin Falcon, the former Cabinet minister and alleged frontrunner whose organizers brag about having “sold more memberships” than other candidates, and in the South Asian community.

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The Liberal leadership election organizing committee, which claims to have the situation under control, is caught in the middle.

“The party takes full responsibility for ensuring that a robust membership audit and review process is conducted prior to the vote,” the committee said in a letter to all campaigns this week.

He also maintains that “the percentage of racialized people who have been audited is what one would reasonably expect given the percentage of apparently racialized people who joined the party.”

At the same time, the committee warned candidates and staff to “refrain from making disparaging comments about … any other campaign, the party or any of its processes.”

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Fortunately for the media, slamming is something the Liberals did not do.

“I have dedicated over 20 years of my life proudly working in Asian and South Asian communities and I will not tolerate these members being honored to prove their membership,” Falcon wrote on his Twitter account.

“Nowadays, it is totally unacceptable for a party to recognize members of racialized communities for their involvement in politics. “

Ellis Ross has denied that he and the others are targeting South Asians for unfair scrutiny.

“However, we do distinguish campaign teams that don’t play by the rules, and we won’t stop,” he wrote on Twitter.

“The British Columbia Liberal Party IS a tolerant, diverse and multicultural organization,” continued Ross, the former Chief Councilor of the Haisla Nation. “That’s what I’m here for. Stop suggesting otherwise.

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Falcon campaign manager Kareem Allam further claimed that the audit process “robs long-time party members, families of former MPs and even former candidates of the vote”.

Citing the party’s own audit report, Allam said that of the 4,000 people removed from membership lists, 76 percent were South Asians and 10 percent Chinese.

Committee co-chairs Colin Hansen and Roxanne Helme disputed these claims.

“The party has contacted members directly to verify member data,” they said in a statement Tuesday. “These calls are ongoing and every opportunity is being taken to contact members to resolve these issues. No memberships have been canceled. No member has been struck off.

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The final call will be made by the party’s returning officer after members have had “every opportunity” to certify their registration.

Former British Columbia Liberal MP Jas Johal, now host of the afternoon show on CKNW radio station, added to the mix.

“The BC Liberals are a rump, rural party, with the demographics of 1970s Canada. They should be wondering how they got here,” Johal wrote in a 25-point Twitter thread that explained extensively why he did. returned to broadcasting rather than running for the Liberal leadership himself.

“Do you think it would have been a problem if 20,000 British Columbians of European descent had been registered? “

The ruling New Democrats have piled up at the expense of the Liberals.

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“I urge the British Columbia Liberal Party to take these allegations seriously and send them to a credible third party so that they can be independently investigated,” said NDP MP Niki Sharma.

Not that the New Democrats accepted independent scrutiny when similar membership allegations rocked their party in the 2000 and 2011 leadership contests.

As happened in 2011, the Liberals were also picking a new leader and they too found themselves embroiled in membership controversies.

Most memorable involved a house cat named Olympia, who was added to Liberal membership lists after someone paid the $ 10 fee.

When it emerged that the cat was owned by a Christy Clark supporter, a rival campaign launched a website called Kitties4Christy.

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The site was soon closed, as was the chat membership. Clark won.

Also in 2011, then NDP MP Harry Lali called on Elections BC to take over all-party leadership contests with fair, responsible and independent guidelines.

Elections BC would be well placed to do so, as it already performs independent checks on party finances and postal voting in referendums and elections.

But it would require a change in the law, which the Liberals did not do when they formed government.

The New Democrats haven’t either now that they are able to enlist Elections BC to oversee the leadership contests.

Despite the embarrassment, neither party is willing to relinquish control of the insider-controlled process that selects leaders, some of whom become prime ministers.

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