Is it time for independent oversight of local elections in B.C.?

Vancouver city clerk's office violates reporter's right to know

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.

I’m thankful I live in a country where the constitution guarantees freedom of the press. It is also enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but too many governments on this planet don’t abide by it, so reporters are persecuted because of despots who suppress facts and opinions.

Flowing from the Charter of Rights and Freedoms are various provincial and municipal statutes that govern things like elections. In British Columbia, where citizens will elect municipal councils and school boards on Nov. 15, laws say citizens have the right to see both nomination forms and financial disclosure statements filed by candidates. The filings are supposed to be available for public inspection during business hours at the site of municipal government. Additionally, the filings are supposed to be made available online.

The financial disclosure form states assets, liabilities, business holdings and real estate. Here is a link to the one Mayor Gregor Robertson filed last January. This is an accountability measure meant to cause a candidate or public office holder to put the public’s interest ahead of their own self-interest. British Columbia Premiers Bill Vander Zalm and Glen Clark resigned from office in separate scandals because they were found in conflict of interest. In Vander Zalm’s case, it was the sale of real estate. For Clark, it was home renovations.

Since nominations opened Sept. 30, City of Vancouver has published the completed nomination forms, but not a single financial disclosure statement. My email to city clerk and chief election officer Janice MacKenzie on Oct. 9 was referred to the communications office, whose Tobin Postma responded with this comment:

“Candidate financial disclosure forms are being submitted by candidates for Mayor, Council and School Trustee. The forms are publicly available for inspection in the City Clerk’s office in City Hall and staff are working to get them posted online in the next few days.”

I visited Vancouver city hall on Oct. 10 to look at the financial disclosure statements. But my right to see them was denied.

City clerk MacKenzie
MacKenzie
Deputy Stewart
Stewart

I was already there to observe the 4 p.m. deadline for candidates to register for the civic election. It is not a cliche to say this is the most important civic election yet, because the prize for the winners is bigger than ever. A four-year term, instead of three.

After identifying myself at the city clerk’s office, deputy city clerk Wendy Stewart, formerly of the communications office, appeared and informed me that she would not allow me to see the statements of financial disclosure.

She also claimed not to know where the candidate registration office was, but the employee at the information desk staff on the main floor pointed kindly me to room 115. The staff inside room 115 declined to show me the list of who had registered so far on deadline day. They did properly lock the door in time for the 4 p.m. cutoff.

I asked MacKenzie outside room 115, after the deadline had passed, if she would let me look at the list of those who registered. She also refused, claiming staff were still working on compiling the list. It was finally released to the media at 10:49 p.m. via the communications department’s email (see below).

The folks at CityHallWatch noticed my afternoon Tweets and featured my situation on their blog, under the headline City election officer refused to show election nomination papers to journalist. Did she break the law? Elections BC should investigate.

Why does this matter? The next deadline in the election process is 4 p.m. Oct. 14 for anyone with reason to challenge a candidate’s nomination. Because city hall is denying rightful access to financial disclosure statements, the public in the City of Vancouver does not have reasonable time to review all the information that should be available about the candidates. Is the city clerk’s office aiding and abetting in the delay of information about a potential conflict of interest?

It also matters because the city clerk’s office is the department of city hall that is charged with running the civic election. Both MacKenzie and Stewart serve at the pleasure of city council, which is dominated by Vision Vancouver, which obviously wants to stay in power after Nov. 15. The city clerk’s office is not an independent body, but it should be bending over backwards to act independent and impartial at this most crucial time. On Oct. 10, it failed on two counts and I find that troubling.

In its news release late Oct. 10, the communications department claimed the financial disclosure statements will be available on Oct. 14 for public viewing and online. The city hall website says the clerk’s office opens at 8:30 a.m. The public has a right to be there and a right to inspect election records.

Candidates for Mayor

(One to be elected)

 

AUBICHON, Meynard (Stop Party)

HANSEN, Mike

HILL, Jeff

KAISER, Cherryse Kaur

KASTING, Bob

LAPOINTE, Kirk (NPA)

LY, Tim

ROBERTSON, Gregor (Vision Vancouver)

SHANDLER, Colin

WONG, Meena (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

 

Candidates for Councillor

(Ten to be elected)

 

AFFLECK, George (NPA)

ALM, Kelly

ANGUS, David

AQUINO, RJ (One City Vancouver)

BAKER, Gregory (NPA)

BALL, Elizabeth (NPA)

BARRETT, Lisa (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

BOYER, Marc

BROWN, Cleta (Green)

CARR, Adriane (Green)

CHERNEN, Glen (Cedar Party)

CHERNEN, Nicholas (Cedar Party)

CHOW TAN, Sid (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

COPELAND, Cord Ted

DEAL, Heather (Vision Vancouver)

DE GENOVA, Melissa (NPA)

DEOCERA, Abraham

FRASER, Grant

FRY, Pete (Green)

FUOCO, Federico (Vancouver 1st)

GAVIN, Gayle (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

GUITAR, Anthony

GUNN, Charlene (Cedar Party)

GUSTAFSON, Jeremy (Cedar Party)

HIGGINS, Keith (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

JANG, Kerry (Vision Vancouver)

JOHL, Jesse (Vancouver 1st)

KLJAJIC, Milan (Vancouver 1st)

LING, Lena

LOUIE, Raymond (Vision Vancouver)

LOUIS, Tim (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

LOW, Ken (NPA)

MCDOWELL, Rob (NPA)

MEGGS, Geoff (Vision Vancouver)

MUNOZ, Wilson (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

MURGOCI, Elena (Vancouver 1st)

O’KEEFFE, Jennifer (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

ORSER, Rick (IDEA)

PANDEY, Rajiv

RAMOS, Ferdinand (Hotel Workers United Local 40)

REIMER, Andrea (Vision Vancouver)

ROBERTSON, Ian (NPA)

SCOTT, Suzanne (NPA)

SHARMA, Niki (Vision Vancouver)

SIEGL, Audrey “sχɬemtəna:t” (Coalition of Progressive Electors)
SKALICKY, Ludvik

STEVENSON, Tim (Vision Vancouver)

TANG, Tony (Vision Vancouver)

WONG, Mercedes (Vancouver 1st)

 

Candidates for Park Commissioner

(Seven to be elected)

 

BLOOM, Ezra (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

BUCKSHON, James

CLARKE, Roland

COUPAR, John (NPA)

CRAWFORD, Casey (NPA)

DE CASTRIS, Jenny

EVANS, Catherine (Vision Vancouver)

GIRN, Naveen (Vision Vancouver)

GRANBY, Brent (Vision Vancouver)

HADLEY, Eleanor

HAMILTON, Jamie Lee (IDEA)

HAYDEN, Brent (Vancouver 1st)

JAGPAL, Jay (NPA)

JAMAL, Urooba (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

JOHL, Yogi (Vancouver 1st)

KADIOGLU, Matt

KIRBY-YUNG, Sarah (NPA)

LOKE, Trevor (Vision Vancouver)

MACKINNON, Stuart (Green)

MOUTTET, Stéphane (NPA)

POPAT, Imtiaz (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

ROMANIUK, Anita (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

ROSSETTI, Massimo (Vancouver 1st)

RUMBAUA, Sammie Jo (Vision Vancouver)

SHUM, Erin (NPA)

STARINK, Doug (Vancouver 1st)

SUNSHINE, Earl

TULL, Coree (Vision Vancouver)

WIEBE, Michael (Green)

WONG, Richard (Vancouver 1st)

WYSS, Cease (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

 

Candidates for School Trustee

(Nine to be elected)

 

ALEXANDER, Joy (Vision Vancouver)

BACCHUS, Patti (Vision Vancouver)

BALLANTYNE, Fraser (NPA)

BHATHA, Susan (Vancouver 1st)

BOUEY, Jane (Public Education Project)

CLEMENT, Ken (Vision Vancouver)

DAY, Diana (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

DENIKE, Ken (Vancouver 1st)

DODDS, T “Mrs. Doubtfire”

FALLS, Larry

FRAATZ, Ralph (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

FRASER, Janet (Green)

GIESBRECHT, Gwen (Public Education Project)

GUPTA, Raj

JIVRAJ, Amin

KOMBII, Nanjalah (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

LOMBARDI, Mike (Vision Vancouver)

NAGTEGAAL, Heidi (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

NGUYEN, Bang

NOBLE, Penny (NPA)

OAK, Mischa (Green)

PAYNE, Cherie (Vision Vancouver)

RICHARDSON, Christopher (NPA)

ROBERTSON, Stacy (NPA)

SHARMA, Sandy (NPA)

SHECTER, Ilana (Coalition of Progressive Electors)

WONG, Allan (Vision Vancouver)

WOO, Sophia (Vancouver 1st)

WYNEN, Rob (Vision Vancouver)


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