Local politics gets messy

By Dermod Travis

Judging by the mud flying, it would seem – splat – local elections are well underway across B.C.

If the campaign turns out anything like the opening acts, there's going to be some hefty dry cleaning bills this October.

This spring, two of Vancouver's civic parties proved that money doesn't always buy you political smarts.

Vancouver's oldest party – the Non-Partisan Association – is clearly vying for the Messiest Nomination Meeting of the Year award. 

It started last summer when Coun. Geoff Meggs quit and became Premier John Horgan's chief of staff, forcing a byelection. 

Former 2011 Cedar party mayoral – and then councillor hopeful – Glen Chernen sought the NPA nomination, as did former political staffer Hector Bremner. Bremner took the nomination and went on to win the byelection. The duel was not over, however. 

Both had their sights on the NPA's mayoral nomination, but Chernen managed to outfox Bremner at the party's annual general meeting in November and successfully elected a majority of his supporters to the party's board of directors. 

For a good chunk of the year Russia's honorary counsel in Vancouver, Erin Chutter, was even among its members, but I digress.

It was the stacked NPA board that denied Bremner the right to run for the party's mayoral nomination last May, clearing the path for Chernen, or so he sought. Two other candidates had been 'greenlighted' to seek the nomination and one, Ken Sim, went on to win.

Bremner and Chernen have both since bolted the NPA. Bremner is now running for mayor with his new Yes Vancouver party, and Chernen is running for council under former Conservative MP Wai Young's Coalition Vancouver party.

Not to be outdone, Vision Vancouver announced last spring that it wouldn't run a candidate for mayor, leaving one possible hopeful, Shauna Sylvester, in the lurch. Sylvester announced that she would run for mayor as an independent instead. 

Vision then reversed course and decided to run a candidate for mayor after all. At a June nomination meeting, Squamish hereditary chief Ian Campbell won the nod. But, Campbell bowed out of the race shortly before nominations closed, leaving Vision exactly where it was last spring.

Confused? Imagine what it must be like for Vancouver voters.

At least three mayoral candidates in B.C. are facing possible citations by the Law Society of B.C. What are the odds? 

Richmond hopeful Hong Guo is facing a citation “relating to millions of dollars that are alleged to have gone missing from her company’s trust account;” former West Vancouver mayor Mark Sager – seeking the top job again – is alleged to have “accepted gifts totalling more than $100,000 from a client;” and Pitt Meadows mayor John Becker is alleged to have misappropriated money from client trust funds.

Out in Chilliwack, councillor Sam Waddington – now running for mayor – has had his 2017 expenses referred to the RCMP by the outgoing council.

The timing of the decision adds to a disturbing number of complaints being filed against candidates this election cycle. One can only hope that such filings are not a political tactic and that the complaints have some substance.

– Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC

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