A Liberal incumbent says she’s appalled that her Green challenger is campaigning out of a publicly owned and subsidized building.
Vancouver Centre candidate Hedy Fry also professed surprise when told that Jesse Brown’s campaign headquarters at 1459 Barclay Street is the address of a registered charity.
Brown is executive director of the charitable organization, the Vancouver Friends for Life Society. The group serves people with serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer at its West End location. The city’s board of parks and recreation owns the property and leases it to the charity for $1 a year.
“I’m quite surprised and appalled, actually, by that news, because, you know, if it’s true, it’s very inappropriate, and I am shocked to hear that,” Fry told the Georgia Straight in a phone interview Tuesday (October 8).
Fry acknowledged that she knows that Brown “doesn’t have another campaign office”.
“I haven’t seen one anywhere else. I’ve seen the NDP office. I’ve seen the Conservative office,” Fry said.
Charitable organizations are not supposed to get involved in partisan political activities, and Brown asserted that nothing of the sort is happening.
“The Jesse Brown campaign is completely separate from the Vancouver Friends for Life Society,” Brown told Straight by phone.
Brown explained that his campaign is renting some space at the charity’s location but he refused to say for how much.
“We have a rental agreement with the Vancouver Friends for Life Society for use of the space outside of programming hours,” he said.
According to Brown, the deal covers an office of about 100 square feet, storage for campaign signs, and access to meeting areas.
Brown maintained that rentals aren’t something new for the organization. He recalled that earlier this year, Fry rented the place for an event for election volunteers.
“This is a win-win for the charity because we do many rentals, including to the Dr. Hedy Fry campaign. She rented it out,” Brown said. “So there’s precedent for other political groups having rented this space, and it’s a great opportunity for the charity to raise revenue.”
Going further back, the Green candidate noted that the organization’s founder, Lorne Mayencourt, also rented the property for his political activities as both a federal Conservative candidate and a contender for a B.C. Liberal Party nomination.
Mayencourt ran and lost to Fry in the federal election campaign of 2008.
“This organization has many political links for many years, so I guess it’s the Green Party’s turn,” Brown said.
According to Brown, he started to rent space when he got the Green Party’s nomination in June.
Brown added that he went on leave as executive director of the Vancouver Friends for Life Society on September 30.
Fry won Vancouver Centre in 1993 and is now campaigning for a ninth term. The longest-serving female MP in Canada’s history said that she had a part in the history of the Vancouver Friends for Life Society. She recalled having asked then Vancouver mayor Philip Owen to have the city lease the property to the organization.
Fry also related that the Diamond family put in money to fix the place. It was originally known as the Weeks House, after George W. Weeks, who opened the city’s first Hudson’s Bay store on Cordova Street in 1887.
The former residence is now called the Diamond Centre for Living.
“The charity is not involved in any political activity,” Brown said. “It’s just raising revenues through rentals.”