Elections BC oversight would end dodgy tactics in party races

Several longtime Liberals and New Democrats of Punjabi descent worry that the blame for the dodgy memberships will be unfairly placed on racialized communities.

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Leaders of the province’s Indo-Canadian community say the recent controversy surrounding BC Liberal Party memberships wouldn’t happen if a third-party organization like Elections BC was given a watchdog role in elections in the province. leadership of political parties.

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Several longtime Liberals and New Democrats of Punjabi descent worry that the blame for questionable memberships will be unfairly placed on racialized communities, rather than party membership and voting rules.

“Punjabi-Canadians are a demographic that loves their politics, and you have the traditional loyalty to family and friends, which is why this community is able to recruit a large number of members in a very short time. That doesn’t mean their membership is illegal,” said longtime BC Liberal Barj Dhahan.

“Whenever this issue comes up, it’s Punjabi Canadians who are stereotyped that they don’t play by the rules. The real question is: are the rules followed by the candidates, their campaign teams and their volunteers? »

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The controversy came to a head last month, after six of the BC Liberals’ seven leadership campaign teams called on the party to vet nearly half of its new members, fearing the rules weren’t in place. respected. They listed addresses that weren’t residences, including one on a forest service road. A campaign said its canvassers found a residence where only one of the five people registered using that address lived there. Campaigns questioned whether the party was capable of catching potential cheaters.

Since then, the party has been accused of selecting members of the South Asian and Chinese communities for scrutiny and audit.

Former New Democrat MP Harry Lali said there’s a long history of groups, including lawyers and teachers, launching big membership drives for their favorite candidates, but those drives haven’t never been questioned. He believes every leadership election in every party over the past two decades has been marred by questionable membership recruitment tactics.

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Lali said when this happens, the party suffers.

“What ends up happening is that old guard members are pitted against newer members, so white people are often pitted against non-white people,” he said. “It’s time for political parties to be dragged into the 21st century.”

That’s why Lali recommended that Elections BC take over the process of verifying membership and overseeing leadership votes more than a decade ago when he was running for the NDP leadership.

Vikram Bajwa also backs Elections BC calls for participation Bajwa has been a member of the BC Liberal Party for over 20 years and was one of the whistleblowers in the so-called ‘quick wins’ scandal in 2013, when the party under former premier Christy Clark planned to use government funds to target ethnic support.

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Bajwa now says more than 6,000 international students from India and China have been registered as Liberal Party members in the current leadership race. Bajwa said he and several other party members sought legal advice and wrote a letter asking the party to take action.

“The Liberal Party membership form does not ask you to declare your citizenship or permanent resident status,” Bajwa explained. “It was overlooked in the Christy Clark days, and this time we want to put an end to it.”

Bajwa said that if the issue is not properly addressed in the final Liberal leadership debate on Tuesday night, as promised by the party, he and several affected members will file a judicial review of the memberships in the Colombian Supreme Court on Wednesday. British.

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Meanwhile, the party did not respond to a request for comment on foreign student memberships.

The leadership election organizing committee issued a public statement last week saying more than 3,000, or 6%, of the party’s 43,000 current active members have been flagged for audit. He said certain checks were triggered when a non-Canadian IP address was used to purchase a subscription.

He added that, so far, no membership has been rejected.

Critics say they don’t work for any of BC’s Liberal campaigns and their only goal is to rid the system of the abuses it contains. They say it will take unprecedented political will to introduce legislation allowing Elections BC to oversee all party leadership elections.

“Doing nothing about it, for all political parties, ends up creating a schism and it erodes participation in the political process less and less,” Lali said. “And on a larger scale, when you’re talking about someone who wants to be premier of the province, you want to make sure that person has won fairly and that the general public can have that confidence.”

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