Two political activists with past ties to the federal Conservatives are promoting a slate of school board candidates in several B.C. communities.
ParentsVoice BC claims on its website that most school districts "are run by trustees who are there for the employees, government bureaucrats and special interest groups:".
"Parents are the true political party when it comes to their children's education and upbringing," the website states.
It notes that its candidates "will have the infrastructure and support to compete effectively".
"This includes training, fundraising, a webpage, list management, financial controls, platform development, social media and marketing," the website adds.
Elections B.C. has registered ParentsVoice BC as an elector organization in the school districts of Central Okanagan, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Delta, Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, Mission, Nechako Lakes, Peace River North, Surrey, and Vernon School District.
The ParentsVoice BC website makes no mention of the slate having a socially conservative bent, but the president, Marc Vella, has been an outspoken opponent of abortion in the past. (A previous organization called Burnaby Parents' Voice ran candidates opposing the Burnaby school district's LGBT+-friendly policies in the 2011 election.)
Vella is a former Conservative riding association president in Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon. He was elected to the board of the Abbotsford Conservative Electoral District Association in 2021.
The ParentsVoice BC website states that he spent five years on the Conservative Party of Canada national policy committee.
In a 2020 article for the B.C. Catholic, Vella wrote that he was among 700 federal Conservatives who voted at a 2018 convention to delete a party policy opposing legislation regulating abortion. They were slightly outnumbered by those who wanted to retain the policy.
"In the last five years of being a grassroots volunteer in different civic initiatives, I’ve realized there’s a simple reason why our society keeps moving further and further from our worldview: we Christians are missing in action," Vella declared in the article. "We don’t get involved; we don’t organize strategically and engage. So we cede the playing field without even putting up a fight. It’s time to change that by getting involved."
In the same article, he noted that the Christian Civic Affairs Committees of Canada had been created to help people participate in politics as a form of charity. Vella encouraged people to join one of these committees in their parish and is listed in the article's tagline as the president.
The ParentsVoice BC website states that Vella is founder of "Civic Affairs Committees of Canada"—and the word "Christian" does not appear in connection with this organization.
"PVBC is not affiliated with any organization or special interest group," the website emphasizes. "Like most community leaders, our candidates may belong to a variety of unions, religious institutions, and other organizations. Our candidates do not represent any of these. They are committed to represent the entire community to the best of their abilities."
“It’s no wonder that our country is going down a non-Christian path," Vella said in this article. "It’s not that we’re fighting a battle and losing. We’re just not fighting.”
The campaign manager of PVBC is Fritz Radandt, a free-speech and free-market activist who's been associated with the federal Conservatives and B.C. Liberals in the past. His Linkedin profile describes him as an "Entrepreneur and Community Champion" who lives in Port Coquitlam.
In 2021, Radandt managed Kerry-Lynne Findlay's successful Conservative campaign in the federal riding of South Surrey–White Rock.
The ParentsVoice BC website hasn't yet posted a list of its candidates in various school board elections.
It encourages people to sign up for the newsletter by providing their name, phone number, email address, and postal code.
Rise of data mining in politics
In recent years, there have been several books published on the rise of data mining in politics.
They include John Nichols's Dollarocracy: How the Money and Media Election Complex is Destroying America, Susan Delacourt's Shopping for Votes: How Politicians Choose Us and We Choose Them, and Sasha Isenberg's The Victory Lab.
These books reveal how political parties can create profiles about individual voters based on information harvested online—and how that can be used to win their support in future elections.
"One of the great untold stories of the last several years in politics has been the transformation of our politics from a focus on the old-school television advertising—maybe even a little bit of digital advertising on websites—to high-stakes data mining," Nichols says in the video below.
This information can be very useful to provincial and federal political parties, which is one reason why they regularly encourage people to sign online petitions on various issues.
That's because this offers these parties an opportunity to target their candidates' messages around issues that resonate strongly with individual voters.