Victor Vrsnik's curious campaign to reelect the B.C. Liberal government

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the B.C. Liberal reelection campaign will revolve around the party’s alleged support for small businesses.

Premier Gordon Campbell reinforced that message at a candidate-training session yesterday (March 28) in Vancouver. I guess Gordo's hoping that the public will forget the B.C. Liberal government’s dubious treatment of small businesses along Cambie Street, and focus on the bigger picture.

One of the pointmen in this campaign to portray the NDP as enemies of small business is Victor Vrsnik, a principal of Spire Public Relations Ltd.

Vrsnik is also the coordinator of the Coalition of B.C. Businesses, which has launched the Web site in advance of the May 12 provincial election.

The coalition is a registered election advertising sponsor with Elections B.C., which gives it the right to run a limited amount of third-party advertising up until election day as per the Election Amendment Act, 2008.

Parts of this so-called gag law have been found unconstitutional, according to the British Columbia Teachers' Federation. A B.C. Supreme Court ruling on the matter is expected to be released this week, clarifying the situation.

If you watch the videos on the site, you’ll see serious shilling for the B.C. Liberals.

Vrsnik, who arranges interviews with the spokesperson for, came to my attention several years ago while he was provincial director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

During the first term of the B.C. Liberal government, Vrsnik favoured balanced-budget legislation, a legislated provincial debt-repayment plan, and significant  restraints on spending.

When  Vrsnik spoke to a legislative committee in 2002 about these ideas, he was praised by Ralph Sultan, the Liberal MLA for West Vancouver-Capilano, who described it as an “excellent, excellent presentation”.

In recent years, Vrsnik's company has  done work for the Copeman Healthcare Centre, which charges patients an annual fee to see its doctors and other health-care practitioners.

It’s not his only link to the private health-care industry.

Vrsnik is also listed as the media coordinator of the Canadian Independent Medical Clinics Association, which advocates for “the right to access private insurance when the public system fails”.

Curiously, the portfolio section of Spire’s Web site also lists the West Vancouver-Capilano Liberal riding association. Sultan is still the MLA

Political parties are permitted to spent $4.4 million during the campaign period from April 14–May 12, according to Elections B.C.  

Candidates can spend $70,000 each.

An “election advertising sponsor”—which is not a registered political party, registered constituency association, or candidate—is an organization that must register with the chief electoral officer.

Up until now, third-party advertisers  have not been  permitted to spend more than $3,000 in a single riding or $150,000 provincewide from February 13 to voting day on May 12.

Election advertising sponsors must be independent and not sponsor election advertising with political parties, constituency associations, candidates, agents, or financial agents, according to Elections B.C.

I find it intriguing that the person who is a major participant  in this particular election-advertising sponsor also happens to list a B.C. Liberal  constituency association as a client on his public-relations-company's Web site.

Gee, I wonder if that’s something that might interest Elections B.C.

Then there’s that business of Vrsnik’s former work with the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Interestingly, the CTF’s B.C. branch  issued a news release earlier this year criticizing the B.C. Liberal government for running a $495-million deficit in this fiscal year, and another $245-million deficit the following year.

This year, the  B.C. Liberal government also scrapped the balanced-budget legislation that Vrsnik was so fond of during the Campbell’s first term as premier. The CTF was not impressed by the return to deficit financing.

Of course, none of this is  mentioned on the Web site.




Mar 29, 2009 at 7:21pm

Oddly Ralph Sultan P.Eng (Electrical) Phd former Harvard Business School professor is the only person in the Liberal caucus with any real business or engineering experience. Yet he sits on the backbench while cabinet ministers with high school diplomas qualified as restaurant waiters , realtors, photojournalists, and BCTel cable pullers dispense tens of billions of dollars to Gordo's corporate welfare bum friends.

Can it be they don't like what Ralph has to say to them?

True Grit

Mar 30, 2009 at 1:13am

Let me get this straight. Vrsnik works for a Liberal MLA. All of a sudden he is now running a supposed third party group putting out syrupy supposed testimonials about how great the Liberals are. And this is a guy who used to be with the CTF who is opposed to virtually everything the Liberals have done.

And people wonder why this party is becoming more and more known for the same sleaze that their federal counter parts are known for. This kind of thing is hurting true Liberals, having opportunists like Vrsnik hijacking the agenda for what? Vote BC Jobs? What is that? A vote for more jobs for provincial Liberal hacks? My grandparents, life long Liberals, like my parents, and me, are spinning in their graves now. This is embarrassing.

Emma McGee

Mar 30, 2009 at 9:31pm

Ralph Sultan is my MLA. He is a good man. I am disappointed to learn he is involved with a questionable character like Victor Vrsnik. But with the way the Campbell government is going, with things like the omnitrax scandal, I am not surprised.

ezekiel bones

Apr 1, 2009 at 3:01pm

Great investigative journalism Charlie. This is the caliber I hope for when I open up one of your articles.

carl shalansky

Feb 7, 2012 at 9:11am

Ralph Sultan: Thanks for your note-- I did read Victor’s ‘Opinion’ item in the Sun...OK as far as it goes...I think Enbridge needs to convince all that this pipeline won’t be just world class..but it will set the standard for how a pipeline should be built and more importantly that this ‘HOW WE WILL OPERATE THIS PIPELINE...!’They need to be specific about how they intend to do ideas are attached..thanks. Carl

“The ‘soft power’ ideas proposed by Victor Vrsnik (Spire Public Relations Ltd) are ok(see but the big issue for Enbridge as I see it is the need for them to convince the decision makers and the public that they're going to approach system safety as THE most important issue.The Enbridge story on line is not flattering ...their handling of recent 'incidents'(code word for screw up) has been criticized by some...etc.What is required is an epiphany by Enbridge leaders about system operational safety...let Enbridge tell us how they intend to bring safety to their Board’s attention...appoint a Technical Officer(TO) to keep the board informed about 'areas of concern' on their systems..and let the Board approve the action plan for ‘attacking’ potential safety issues...the Board needs to accept ACCOUNTABILITY for system safety...the bean counters can count the beans--let the technical folks run the system with a 'due diligence' approach to safety- yes ‘things’ can still happen—but let’s see that a ‘best effort’ approach is in place for minimizing incidents...Enbridge will say that they will follow best world standards, etc.(is there a world best standard?)—standards are often established/modified after ‘things’ happen--- Leaders set the standards!”