Green B.C. Liberals foiled Kevin Falcon's leadership bid by backing Christy Clark in final round

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      Some B.C. environmentalists are taking credit for stopping Surrey-Cloverdale MLA Kevin Falcon from becoming premier.

      During the recent B.C. Liberal leadership campaign, conservationists infiltrated the party to defeat Falcon, a former transportation minister who spearheaded major road-building projects. On the final ballot on February 26, Falcon ended up with 48 percent of the points compared to 52 percent for the winner, Christy Clark.

      The previous day, a volunteer group called Conservation Voters of B.C. urged voting environmentalists to rank Falcon last on the B.C. Liberals’ transferable ballot. A group calling itself B.C. Green Liberals issued the same recommendation to its members.

      “I would say that we had the effect of helping to keep Falcon from becoming the premier of B.C.,” Kevin Washbrook, a director of the Conservation Voters of B.C., told the Georgia Straight by phone.

      Another director of the group, Will Horter, told the Straight by phone that the campaign “dramatically shifted the vote” in certain constituencies.

      He guessed that between 3,000 and 5,000 environmentalists joined the B.C. Liberals during the leadership campaign, and he estimated that they controlled about six percent of the weighted vote. According to Horter, they were concentrated more heavily in constituencies on Vancouver Island, Vancouver, and in the Kootenays, which are mostly represented by NDP MLAs.

      Most of those ridings leaned heavily toward Clark in the final round. In Vancouver-Fairview, where MLA Margaret MacDiarmid endorsed Falcon, Clark ended up with 70.1 percent of the points in the final round. In Alberni-Pacific Rim, Clark collected 68.8 percent of the points. And in Kootenay West, she got 60.3 percent.

      The B.C. Liberal party gave each of the 85 constituencies 100 points, regardless of the number of members. Horter explained that environmentalists could have a greater impact in ridings where there weren’t many B.C. Liberal members.

      In the end, 42 constituencies were targeted: each had either as many identified supporters of environmental groups as the Liberals had members or at least half as many supporters as Liberal members.

      “When I did a quick analysis, 14 of the 20 ridings where Falcon polled the lowest were in our target,” Horter said. “It’s pretty clear that we suppressed his vote dramatically.”

      Falcon, who was supported by 11 cabinet ministers, did not return a message from the Straight to discuss the outcome of the vote.

      Meanwhile, Richard May, a political consultant to the B.C. Green Liberals, told the Straight by phone that more than 4,000 party members followed his slate’s recommendation. Like the Conservation Voters of B.C., his group ranked Mike de Jong first, George Abbott second, and Christy Clark third.

      “It’s not like any of the B.C. Liberal candidates were great,” May admitted.

      After the second count, Falcon had 30.17 percent of the points and Clark had 42.05 percent. Third-place finisher George Abbott, who won 27.78 percent of the points, was removed from the ballot for the third round.

      Abbott had previously announced that his second choice was Falcon, but not enough of his supporters went along with that recommendation to give Falcon a victory.

      “It would have added up to 58 percent if all of Abbott’s supporters had followed Abbott’s request for them to vote for Falcon,” May said. “If you look at what did actually happen, Falcon got 48 percent instead of 58 percent, which means 10 percent of the round-two voters”¦who voted for Abbott failed to vote for Falcon.”

      Another member of the B.C. Green Liberals caucus, filmmaker Jon Cooksey, told the Straight that the B.C. Liberals made it easy to influence the outcome. That’s because the membership fee was only $10 and people could register online.

      “The unifying notion was to prevent Kevin Falcon from becoming premier of the province because he was seen as being so antigreen that he was the worst alternative,” Cooksey stated.

      It began with him and some friends sending out e-mails. With a laugh, Cooksey recalled how one friend responded that he couldn’t believe he was joining the party, but later signed up 12 friends with the help of “copious amounts of alcohol”.

      Washbrook said that during the campaign, Clark said she is willing to sit down with TransLink to discussion how to fund regional transportation priorities.

      He added that Falcon, on the other hand, made it clear that he was going to continue with a "bully pulpit approach to TransLink", whereby it would have to raise money by property taxes or other means to fund projects.

      Though that may seem like a small difference, Washbrook described this as "a huge step forward for regional transportation funding and governance".

      "So I have high hopes for her on that file," he said.

      In addition, Washbrook said there was also a subtle difference in their positions around the carbon tax.

      "Falcon was clearly taking his talking points from the business council with the whole pause-and-reset thing, whereas Clark spoke positively about B.C.'s actions to date," he noted. "Now our caveat is B.C.'s emissions have continued to go up."

      However, Washbrook, May, Horter, and Cooksey all pointed out that Clark wants Prime Minister Stephen Harper to overrule an earlier decision not to proceed with the Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake.

      "I don't know how you square that with a families-first policy," Cooksey commented. "Does that not include First Nations families who will lose their culture because you're going to fill up Fish Lake with mine tailings?"

      Meanwhile, a coalition of environmental groups under the umbrella name Organizing for Change sent a questionnaire to all the B.C. Liberal and B.C. NDP leadership candidates.

      Spokesperson Lisa Matthaus told the Straight by phone that this “nonpartisan” campaign promoted voter education. Organizing for Change is funded by the Tides Canada Foundation, a registered charity that receives money from U.S. charitable foundations.

      “We don’t tell people who to vote for,” Matthaus emphasized. “We don’t rank the candidates or anything like that, but we give people information so they know how to engage and that they have the information to make choices based on environmental records or commitments or statements that politicians have made.”

      The Dogwood Intiative, Wildsight, West Coast Environmental Law, Ecojustice, and Georgia Strait Alliance participated in the initiative, according to Matthaus, who is also a director of the Conservation Voters of B.C.

      Horter, who is also executive director of the Dogwood Initiative, said that the “untold story” of the B.C. Liberal leadership race is the environmental movement’s ability to flex its electoral muscles.

      A North Vancouver researcher, Vivian Krause, has pointed out on her website that the Tides Canada Foundation’s U.S. tax returns show it contributed $90,125 in 2008 and 2009 to Georgia Strait Alliance to fund Organizing for Change.

      She has also revealed that the Dogwood Initiative, which opposes the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline, has been funded by at least four U.S. foundations: Wilburforce, Brainerd, Hewlett, and Tides.

      Horter claimed that no U.S. funding was directed toward the Conservation Voters of B.C. and no U.S. money flowed into the Dogwood Initiative to influence the B.C. Liberal leadership race.

      “The funding that we’ve gotten is just general funding from Americans who agree with the work we’re trying to do here in British Columbia,” he declared. “The argument that there is this U.S. funding coming in here to influence the election is just a bunch of crap.”

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

      Comments

      30 Comments

      Fish Farmer

      Mar 3, 2011 at 8:53am

      US Foundations should not be able to influence BC politics. Period.
      Tax-free status for Dogwood Intiative, Wildsight, West Coast Environmental Law, Ecojustice, and Georgia Strait Alliance to name a few, should be revoked and penalties assesed.
      Using BC environmentalists to launder millions in US interest revenues is wrong and the system must change.
      Ask yourself, "Why are these US groups so interested in BC?"

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      spartikus

      Mar 3, 2011 at 9:10am

      <i>US Foundations should not be able to influence BC politics. Period.</i>

      As for this, U.S. Foundations provided some funds. There is no evidence those funds came with instructions or strings.

      This was an idea hatched by Canadians, sent to other Canadians, to join a Canadian political party, which for reasons I outline above, I think was dumb political strategy. Some funding was provided by private U.S. citizens, not the U.S. government. If you want to argue these private citizens are acting as proxies for the State Dept. or some corporate interest be my guest, but please provide evidence.

      People should think very very carefully about what the [unintended] consequences might be of eliminating the already narrow ability of charities to engage in political activity. In would not just be environmental groups affected.

      As for Vivian Krause - there is a link b/w the People's Republic of China, who owns the Sinopec Oil co., <a href="http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Enbridge+confirms+China+investor+No... is a member of the Northern Gateway Pipeline consortium</a>, who <a href="http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/SA1ASearchResults.aspx?Co... significant funds to the BC Liberal Party</a>. She's never shown any concern with that.

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      Bruce Martindale

      Mar 3, 2011 at 9:14am

      Allowing Vivian Krause to have the final say in this article is wrong. Her focus is on the money and not on the ethics. Investigate the corporations funding the leadership candidates and you will also find American dollars. The real question is what does membership mean. It used to be that to join a party took a commitment and political understanding that meant a great deal to the member and the party. In our current political system the buying and selling of memberships means nothing, Memberships are just bought votes, and the "members" have no real responsibility to the party or the ideology. Furthermore, I think it might be the the ultimate political cynicism that provokes organisations to brag about how they have undermined the system that has been honorable in the past, and then turn around and talk about how the system isn't honorable. I say shame on those organizations that perpetrated this because by doing so, they have tainted the result and have severely limited the ability of the winner to help them in the future. They may have done themselves more damage in the long run then just letting the cards fall as they may and letting the politics play out.

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      Steve Y

      Mar 3, 2011 at 9:33am

      There is no evidence that the American government is influencing the election, but they certainly don't mind the fact that without a pipeline out to BC's coast, they get 10 BILLION DOLLARS OF FREE OIL FROM CANADA EVERY SINGLE YEAR BECAUSE WE HAVE NO OTHER CUSTOMERS. But we can't have oil tankers off of BC's coast, except for the hundreds that go from Alaska to to the US and the ones that come into the Georgia straight... you know, besides those ones, NO OIL Tankers in BC waters!!

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      Auntie Vivian

      Mar 3, 2011 at 9:40am

      When is "researcher" Vivian Krause going to investigate the sources of funding for organizations like the Fraser Institute, which has the same charity tax status as the enviro groups? I understand the right-wing stink tank receives many generous donations from U.S. funders, including Exxon and the tobacco industry, to influence Canadian politics.

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      Fish Farmer

      Mar 3, 2011 at 9:43am

      This is the way I see it:
      US interests seek to stop BC oil from going to Asia and keep it going into the US
      By demarketing BC farmed salmon they support the Alaskan "Wild" fishery
      By stopping development of resource extraction in BC by covering it in a "Green blanket" they can ensure that we do not compete with their own businesses.
      BC is kept under wraps until a time when it is appropriate for them to access the vast resources for themselves.
      Conspiracy theory?
      I don't know, but I am more willing to throw my hat into that ring than follow the likes of Gregor Robertson and his "support"

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      greendreams

      Mar 3, 2011 at 10:43am

      What exactly was gained for the environment by Krusty becoming premier? She said nothing on the environment during her whole leadership race, other than saying it was a good idea to turn Fish Lake into a tailings pond. At least if Kevin Falcon had been elected Premier he would have been easier to defeat than Krusty.

      A bad day for the environment.

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      BC Democrat

      Mar 3, 2011 at 10:59am

      I'm not sure that these claims are completely valid, but it is an example of democracy at work.

      It is interesting to note that the BC NDP Leadership Campaign is immune from similar grass roots initiatives, because its membership was closed, many months before the vote.

      I'm worried here that the party that operates as a closed club (the NDP) seems to be rewarded (keeping control) for its behaviour, whereas some in the traditional BC Liberals members could argue that they were punished (lost of control) for their openness.

      In the end, party's that try to control their membership become irrelevant and die. Parties that are organic and open, thrive. This would point towards the reelection of the BC Liberal Government.

      However, it is some what ironic that the environmental movement has to use the openness of the Liberal party as a vehicle to advance their agenda, while their more natural cousins in the NDP keep their door closed.

      Does the Green Party have a closed or open membership? Just wondering.

      James Green

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      spartikus

      Mar 3, 2011 at 11:09am

      <i>When is "researcher" Vivian Krause going to investigate the sources of funding for organizations like the Fraser Institute, which has the same charity tax status as the enviro groups?</i>

      I have to admit I was taken aback by this. I had always assumed the Fraser Institute was a non-profit. But no, I just checked, it's a registered charity. You learn something everyday. The Fraser Institute clearly engages in political advocacy.

      So <a href="http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/lstngs/menu-eng.html">here's the scorecard according to the Canadian Revenue Agency</a>:

      Fraser Institute: Charity!

      Organizing for Change: Not a charity!

      Groups that support Organizing for Change...

      Tides Canada: Charity!
      BCSEA: Not a charity!
      CPWS: Charity!
      Dogwood Initiative: Not a charity!
      EcoJustice: Charity!
      Georgia Straight Alliance: Not a charity!
      Pembina: Not a charity!
      Forest Ethics: Not a charity!
      Sierra Club: Charity
      West Coast Environmental Law: Charity!
      Wild Sight: Charity!

      What the <a href="http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/chrts-gvng/chrts/plcy/cps/cps-022-eng.html#P107... Revenue Service has to say about charities and political activity</a>:

      <i>A charity wishing to carry out activities that go beyond the limits permitted by the Act may establish a separate and distinct organization that will not be a registered charity and therefore not able to issue charitable receipts. No limitations are placed on the political activities of such a body; it has complete freedom within the law to support any cause it chooses. </i>

      Organizing for Change clearly fits that description. You might think the rules needs changing...but then it's quite likely the Fraser Institute will no longer be able to supply endless op-eds to the Vancouver Sun.

      Hmmm...I might take that trade.

      @Steve Y: Most of the U.S. Foundations that support the tanker ban and efforts against the Gateway Pipeline also support efforts at the Alberta-Gulf Coast Keystone pipeline, as well as off-shore oil platforms in Alaska. It's almost as if they are behaving as...environmentalists.

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