The B.C. Conservatives will choose a new leader this weekend, but candidate Rick Peterson said the party and Vancouver Police are both investigating the alleged theft of a membership list.
Peterson said he has been the victim of two anonymous smear emails that were circulated among party members, who will vote April 12 in Richmond. Peterson or Dan Brooks will succeed John Cummins, the former federal Tory MP under whom the unaffiliated provincial party was shut-out in the 2013 provincial election.
The first email in January questioned ex-journalist Peterson’s career as an investment advisor, but Peterson said he has an unblemished compliance record over 25 years of trading on public markets.
“The reaction that I had, and the party had, was this was very likely somebody from the outside hurting the party using an old membership list and, as such, we just kept on campaigning and put it aside and ignored it,” Peterson said of the January smear.
“This most recent letter was sent to people who were very recent sign-ups in the membership list. These were people who had just become members for the membership race, and it was a second very similar letter from a supposedly concerned businessman, unsigned, anonymous and flagging me.”
Peterson said the party began an internal investigation before filing a complaint with the VPD on April 5.
“If charges are laid and if a conviction is obtained then I will proceed with a civil (defamation) suit against those who are found guilty,” he said. “This is obviously someone who feels threatened by my leadership campaign, I don’t want to speculate if it’s somebody inside the party or outside the party. It’s somebody who doesn’t want to see Rick Peterson be the leader of the B.C. Conservative party.”
One person who doesn’t want Peterson to be leader is his only opponent, who denies knowledge of the culprit.
“The problem is the misuse of the list,” Brooks said. “I don’t know if we’ll ever find that person, but the party is going to make a good effort, I hope they do.”
Peterson campaign manager Jeff Bridge and party director David Wilder resigned from Peterson’s campaign, after allegations were made that a Brooks supporter was behind the smear campaign. More about that in this story by The Tyee’s Andrew MacLeod. Brooks said his campaign uses a secure database with limited access.
“I have complete confidence it didn’t come from inside my campaign, it came from outside,” Brooks said. “Whoever got it, got their hands on an email somehow.”