Dogwood BC, an environmental organization aimed at involving people in politics, is having its activities related to the NDP leadership race probed by both Elections BC and the party.
Elections BC told CTV News in a statement that it was “reviewing” the group’s activities. Specifically, he wants to ensure that as a third party, Dogwood has not made any direct or in-kind political contribution to any leadership contestant.
Kai Nagata, Dogwood’s director of energy and democracy, told CTV News the organization’s goal is to engage supporters in politics. Although the group’s website does not tell people who to vote for, it criticizes Premier John Horgan and the NDP for several environmental decisions and notes that leadership candidate David Eby would continue Horgan’s policies.
It also highlights the environmental achievements of Eby’s opponent, Anjali Appadurai, who promises to end NDP support for the Site C hydroelectric dam and the liquefied natural gas industry.
DUAL MEMBERSHIP ALSO INVESTIGATED
BC NDP Provincial Director Heather Stoutenburg told CTV News in a statement that the party’s Chief Electoral Officer “has received allegations related to a violation of election law by a declared running candidate, as well as numerous complaints regarding the solicitation of fraudulent registrations from members of other parties.”
The party says one complaint is about Dogwood, who tells supporters on his website that they could suspend their party membership and join the NDP, then rejoin their original party after the leadership race.
The NDP membership form indicates that by submitting the application, people acknowledge that they are not members of another political party. Dogwood’s advice on this? It is not a legal obligation.
Nagata said he recently joined the NDP and encouraging people to get involved in the leadership race is about doing just that: getting people involved. When asked if telling people to “do what they’re comfortable with” was an acknowledgment that there might be some sort of gray area, Kai explained that only NDP members could elect the next prime minister.
“The BC NDP had a few thousand members under the leadership of John Horgan, and the idea of just a few thousand picking the next premier, I think, should concern people all across British Columbia” , Nagata said.
These numbers match rumors, but cannot be confirmed as the party reportedly does not provide membership numbers.
HOW THE PARTY INVESTIGATES COMPLAINTS
Political scientist Hamish Telford, who teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley, pointed out that every political leadership campaign is about recruiting more members than your opponents to elect you to the top job.
“These are kind of like loyalty cards. You can get loyalty cards for Costco and Superstore, (and) none of them are wiser,” Telford added.
The question of so-called “double memberships” is not easy to study. This is because parties conduct their own leadership campaigns according to their own rules. The BC NDP said spot checks would be done on memberships, but did not elaborate.
Raj Sihota, vice-president of 360 Strategies Canada, was previously provincial director of the British Columbia NDP. She told CTV News that she expects the new membership slate to cause unease among longtime party members. People had until September 4 to join the party.
“It will be impossible for the NDP, in this case, to compare its membership list to the membership lists of the Green Party. Political parties do not share their lists,” she explained.
Telford said that’s one of the reasons some suggest leadership contests should be administered by an outside body like Elections BC.
EMAILS ALSO UNDER INVESTIGATION
Another issue investigated by NDP Chief Electoral Officer Elizabeth Cullen concerns emails sent in support of Appadurai that said Green Party members could leave that party, join the NDP and – if she doesn’t win – return to the United Nations. Greens.
“It certainly seems unethical: the way, you know, these emails were written,” Sihota said.
Telford pointed out that people often change parties, but agreed that the sentiment of the email was not in line with the spirit of the party system.
“Any candidate running for leadership is going to tap into their network of people in order to get support.”
For her part, Appadurai said her campaign had not tried to recruit Green Party members because that would be bad for the NDP in the long run, and she said the enthusiasm generated by her campaign meant she didn’t need it.
“No rules were broken by our campaign,” Appadurai said. “There was no collusion. There was absolutely no instruction to anyone connected to the campaign to use underhanded means to gain memberships, because we don’t need them.”
She also denied any wrongdoing in another investigation: the NDP examining comments by an Appadurai supporter regarding the payment of the $10 membership fee. Appadurai said the supporter, who was neither a volunteer nor a staff member, misspoke and the campaign ensured no membership was paid.
The BC NDP has said sanctions are possible. Under NDP leadership rules, this could include the disqualification of a candidate.
“Any registered political parties involved in soliciting fraudulent memberships or interfering with our leadership contest will be reported to Elections BC,” Stoutenberg’s statement said.
Dogwood is not a registered political party and the Greens say they have nothing to do with the race.
Stefan Jonsson, communications director for the Green Party of BC, said he “is not involved in any campaign or organization related to the BC NDP leadership race, and we have no nor encouraged members or supporters to get involved. Our bylaws clearly prohibit double membership, and we do not condone this practice in any way.”