It was only a matter of time before mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart's ties to the labour movement became an issue in the Vancouver election.
For quite a while Yes Vancouver supporters have been raising an alarm about third-party spending by unions on Stewart's behalf.
They felt it was unfair that Yes mayoral candidate Hector Bremner's campaign came under scrutiny last month for legal third-party spending, whereas Stewart's third-party supporters were not receiving any media attention.
That changed earlier this month when the Vancouver Sun's Dan Fumano reported that four members of Vancouver and District Labour Council–affiliated unions continued to collect a salary while working in support of Stewart's campaign.
That prompted Elections B.C. to instruct the labour group to track the workers' hours and include this in a report after voting day.
Then this weekend, this issue gained more momentum when Global News B.C. gave this more coverage. Reporter Paul Johnson reported having an email confirming the work of the four paid union workers.
It led independent mayoral candidate Shauna Sylvester to issue a statement today drawing attention to "the threat of big money interests" in the Vancouver election.
Ironically, Stewart has tried to make ridding big money from politics a cornerstone of his campaign over the past few months. He's made regular disclosures of financial contributions and challenged his competitors to do the same.
Sylvester, however, declared that "it is clear that the new law isn't working as intended" if candidates don't have to disclose all the financial help they're receiving.
"Private big money interests are still forcing their hand-picked candidates on the taxpayer by funnelling thousands of dollars into their election campaigns while exploiting loopholes," she said in a news release.
Meanwhile, Yes Vancouver supporter Sebastian Zein insisted on Twitter that this was the intent of the NDP government when it crafted its local-election-spending law.
The goal, according to Zein, was to grant more power to unions to influence the outcome of municipal elections.
"And the impact of union machinery is even more powerful—often unbeatable—in smaller Metro Van municipalities with lower turnout," Zein stated.
The turnout in the last Vancouver municipal election was 43.7 percent. It was over 32 percent in Richmond and over 31 percent in Surrey in 2014, whereas it fell below 30 percent in Burnaby, New Westminster, and Coquitlam.
An earlier version of this article stated that union employees were working for Stewart's campaign. That is not true, according to Stewart's campaign. They are supporting his candidacy but not working on Stewart's campaign.