The electorate has cast their votes and we must respect their will. There is no doubt that the NDP made an enormous tactical mistake in not shining a light on the B.C. Liberals' dismal 12-year governing record.
Nevertheless, I need to talk about unacceptable dirty tricks I saw in this past election.
In the final stage of the campaign, a pro-Liberal entity put out a full-page ad in Chinese-language papers and broadcast an ad on Chinese-language radio stations. It also distributed Chinese-language pamphlets in Richmond, and disseminated emails, all with the same deceptive message to smear the NDP.
The ads propogated seven points, including: the NDP would comprehensively legalize marijuana and kids would be able to buy it at school; the corporate capital tax would be introduced; and the NDP would block the selling of natural gas to China.
The ads also urged voters not to vote for independent candidates. In Richmond-Centre, there were high-profile Chinese independents challenging what had been a B.C. Liberal seat.
Buying advertisements to attack opponents during an election is not unusual, and the NDP’s restraint in not doing so was certainly a fatal mistake. However, attack ads must be based on the truth, and they cannot fraudulently smear an opponent. This is a fundamental core value and principle of democracy.
Consider that marijuana control is under the jurisdiction of the federal government. The BCNDP has never included above-mentioned policy in its platform.
Regarding the corporate capital tax, I called a news conference during the campaign—and distributed a media release along with Jenny Kwan—in which we specifically stated that the NDP would not bring in this levy. It was also untrue that the NDP would block exports of natural gas to China.
These misleading advertisement reminded me of the previous election, when smear pamphlets used in Kash Heed’s B.C. Liberal campaign in Vancouver-Fraserview had gotten him into big trouble. Heed’s pamphlets claimed that the NDP would legalize hard drugs and would tax the dead (by introducing an inheritance tax).
The RCMP investigated and found that Heed’s campaign had failed to declare these pamphlets and some of his Chinese radio advertisements. He was convicted in court for exceeding the campaign-expense ceiling.
The B.C. Liberals have certainly learned from their mistakes. Although the messages in this past election were not much different from those of Heed’s campaign, this time the smear campaign came from a registered third-party entity.
Apparently, it didn’t break the law because Elections B.C. does not scrutinize the content of advertising, but that doesn’t mean it’s an acceptable practice. It is comparable to simply distributing, in the last election, Heed’s smear pamphlets by a registered third-party advertiser.
The reason why Heed’s pamphlet disgusted the public was not because it wasn't registered or declared. It was due to the shameless smear. That violates core values of a fair and democratic election.
Another point worth highlighting is that the above-mentioned smear ads were only directed to the Chinese-speaking community. I’ve not seen it in mainstream English or the South Asian media.
Does this mean that the group backing the B.C. Liberals think that Chinese-speaking voters could easily be deceived? Or did they think that the mainstream media wouldn’t fall for it and it might even trigger a backlash?
If a swindler were to specially target Chinese-speaking people, how do you think the media and the community would respond? They would condemn it as a racist trick. So when Chinese speakers were being targeted in the election, why was this practice ignored?
What’s the difference between feeding untrue information to voters in this provincial election and targeted voters receiving incorrect voting information in the federal robocall scandal?
It’s very unfortunate that I’ve witnessed these kinds of dirty tricks in the past three provincial elections. On the last day of the 2005 election, the campaign of the B.C. Liberal candidate in Burnaby-Willingdon, John Nuraney, posted a half-page ad in three Chinese dailies. It claimed that the NDP would introduce a death-and-inheritance tax and that the party doesn’t welcome Chinese investors.
In the 2009 election, the campaign of the B.C. Liberal candidate in Vancouver-Fraserview, Kash Heed, distributed smear pamphlets and robocalled targeted Chinese voters with a message claiming that the NDP would legalize hard drugs and bring in the death tax.
In the 2013 election, in addition to the above-mentioned third-party smear campaign, the B.C. Libeals also posted a questionable ad on Chinese and South Asian radio programs claiming that the NDP would take away your children’s RESP money and give it to their friends. The English mainstream media weren’t lucky enough to receive such advertising business.
As you can see, the smear tactic has become the Liberal Party’s quick-win election strategy. To tolerate these kinds of dirty tricks targeting Chinese-speaking voters will only make it worse.
An election is like a sports game: winning or losing is part of the game. The fairness of the match is more important than its outcome. If our society tolerates these kinds of untruthful and fraudulent practices, this deplorable trend will spread from government to the rest of our society.