The commissars who control the provincial New Democrat constituency association in Vancouver-Kingsway are accusing party leaders of running "an unclean nomination meeting" in their riding. According to an email authored by the puritans, offenses include the fact "only one of the candidates, (nomination winner) Adrian Dix, was provided with a musical background before and after his speech" and "people had no privacy when marking their ballots" because "the voting took place in a gym where the chairs were tightly packed together." Oh my God! Tightly packed seats! Nothing is more offensive to democratic process than that!
The puritans have also levelled several more serious accusations against the party. They claim some of those who showed up for the nomination voted twice and others were not allowed to cast their ballots. In an interview, provincial secretary Gerry Scott confirmed the New Democrats are investigating the complaint. Public Eye readers will recall the New Democrat brass took over Vancouver-Kingsway's nomination meeting following seperate accusations the local association was biased in favour of Mr. Dix's competitor Comandante Alicia Barsallo. The following is the email containing the association's counter-complaint.
To: BC NDP Provincial Executive
Attention: Mr. Jeff Fox, president, 604-291-9611, email@example.com
cc: BC NDP Provincial Council
Vancouver-Kingsway NDP members / NDP members
SERIOUS IRREGULARITIES OCCURRED IN THE CONDUCT OF THE VANCOUVER-KINGSWAY NDP NOMINATION MEETING ON DECEMBER 5TH. WE DEMAND ANOTHER VOTE. PROVINCIAL EXECUTIVE TAKE-OVER LEADS TO UNCLEAN NOMINATION MEETING
In an unprecedented move, the BC NDP provincial executive decided to take over the Vancouver-Kingsway NDP nomination meeting shortly before December 5th. The move was unconstitutional as it went against article 9 of the BC NDP constitution which places the responsibility for conducting nomination meetings on the local executive. The local executive protested the provincial executive take-over of the Vancouver-Kingsway NDP nomination meeting, to no avail. Despite this, the local executive hoped that the provincial executive's conduct of the nomination meeting would be reasonably clean. Unfortunately, this was not the case. And, as the local executive, we cannot allow ourselves to be connected in any way with the irregularities and improprieties that have
COMPLAINTS OF WIDESPREAD IRREGULARITIES AT THE NOMINATION MEETING LEAD LOCAL EXECUTIVE TO CHALLENGE RESULTS
After receiving numerous complaints from Vancouver-Kingsway NDP members and from members of other ridings who attended the nomination meeting on December 5th, the Vancouver-Kingsway NDP Executive has decided to challenge the results of the nomination meeting.
THESE ARE THE REASONS:
1. NO SAFE AREA WAS PROVIDED FOR VOTING. Between the first and the second round of voting a number of Indo-Canadian seniors had their ballot books snatched and marked for them. One Indo-Canadian senior approached the chair showing a ballot where the name Dix had been selected against his wishes. The chair provided him no solution.
2. PEOPLE HAD NO PRIVACY WHEN MARKING THEIR BALLOTS. The election of the NDP candidate must be done, under the constitution, by secret vote. Yet the secrecy of the vote was compromised. Despite prior warnings by the local executive, the voting took place in the gym where the chairs were tightly packed together. The fewer than 10 optional voting booths were inadequate for the 700 people who voted in the first round and the 500 people who voted in the second round. People mostly filled their ballots in their seats.
3. THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO VOTED MULTIPLE TIMES. The requirement that each person in attendance be allowed only one vote was not enforced. The ballot boxes were circulated around the gymnasium without giving scrutineers the opportunity to oversee the process. People could place their ballot in any box. This gave people with access to ballots left behind by people who went home an opportunity to cast multiple votes at various ballot boxes. Some people were allowed to place two or more ballots in the same ballot box. This was allowed by the people holding the ballot boxes, and, in at least one case, it happened in front of witnesses who had protested.
4. THE DOORS TO THE VOTING AREA WERE NOT CONTROLLED AFTER THE FIRST BALLOT. People going home were not asked to surrender their ballot books, and there are numerous reports that the ballot books then changed hands. The four reasons above are sufficient to question the validity of the results of the December 5th nomination meeting, particularly since the difference between the two finalists was small (28 votes out of 500). But there is more:
5. UNTRAINED AND OPENLY BIASED REGISTRARS. We have received complaints that registrars did not follow proper procedures and showed bias. People who entered with passports and cards without address and presented no other document were allowed to register to vote. Some scrutineers also noticed what they called cozy relationships between the registrars and Mr. Dix's reps. Scrutineers for other candidates were treated improperly and had their comments ignored.
6. MEMBERS OF VANCOUVER-KINGSWAY NDP WITH THE PROPER IDENTIFICATION WERE NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE. Some of these had been wrongly left off the list weeks before the nomination meeting. We were given assurances that they had been put on the list. At the time of the nomination meeting, however, their names were not on the list. When our membership secretary approached provincial secretary Gerry Scott about two people who had not been allowed to register, Scott told him they had. We later found out that this was not the case.
7. VOTING AT THE NOMINATION MEETING WERE PEOPLE WHO DO NOT RESIDE IN THE RIDING. Under the BC NDP constitution, only members who reside in the riding can vote at a nomination meeting. This rule was not enforced. No investigation followed the local executive's complaint weeks before the nomination meeting that people who did not live in the riding appeared as voting members in the membership list for Vancouver-Kingsway. To this day there have been no findings and we have received no report that any one was taken off the list for that reason.
8. IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FIRST ROUND OF VOTING THE CHAIR ANNOUNCED TO THOSE IN ATTENDANCE THAT THEY COULD LEAVE, BUT DID NOT WARN THEM THAT THERE COULD BE A SECOND ROUND OF VOTING. Given the fact that this was the first nomination meeting for many, the chair's omission caused many to go home in the belief that no more needed to be done.
9. THE CHAIR'S ACTIONS LACKED IMPARTIALITY. Many people were talking and some were very impolite while candidate Roberto Rous was giving his speech. There was rude clapping from non-voters in the top level balcony. The chair did nothing to address this issue. Furthermore, Roberto was not invited to the stage to say a few words upon losing on first round. Candidate Shavinder Parmar had to fight for his right to himself convey to the audience his desire to drop out and endorse candidate Alicia Barsallo. Both the chair and provincial secretary Gerry Scott there present argued that he could not do this. It was only after much argument that the chair opted for asking the meeting whether they would allow candidate Parmar to speak.
10. ONLY ONE OF THE CANDIDATES, ADRIAN DIX, WAS PROVIDED WITH A MUSICAL BACKGROUND BEFORE AND AFTER HIS SPEECH. When Mr. Dix went on the stage and spoke, there was loud background music as if the Prime Minister had just entered the room. There was no music when the other three candidates entered. The other candidates were not offered this service.
FURTHERMORE, AN INTIMIDATING CAMPAIGN BY PROVINCIAL OFFICE TO QUESTION CERTAIN NEW MEMBERS ABOUT THEIR DECISION TO BECOME MEMBERS PRECEDED THE NOMINATION MEETING. Throughout the pre-nomination period, certain new members were phoned by provincial office personnel and were grilled as to whether or not they realized they had joined a political party and they would have to participate in campaigns and make financial donations. Those who finally acquiesced that they did not know this received a letter from provincial secretary Gerry Scott rejecting their membership. Because of this, Alicia Barsallo's campaign lost a Chinese Canadian senior she had recruited on her block and a Jewish senior she had recruited at one of the coops. Memberships of people who upon being phoned said they had borrowed money from relatives or friends on the picket line were rejected. Alicia Barsallo's campaign had at least two members rejected on these improper grounds. We know of at least one offensive call to a landed immigrant that she should not have joined the NDP because she is not yet a citizen. Some people were not phoned at all, but had their membership returned. The Shavinder Parmar and Roberto Rous campaigns lost members under similar circumstances. The Vancouver-Kingsway executive asked Mr. Fox and Mr. Scott to provide it with the names of people they had approached so that the Vancouver-Kingsway executive might explain matters to them. We never got that list. To this day we do not know how many new members were stopped from participating in the nomination process through the phone calls from provincial office. Several of the new members affected wrote letters to Scott demanding that they be reinstated as members. Ms Leslie Kerr on behalf of Mr. Gerry Scott told the local executive that they were to be reinstated. On nomination day we found that this was not the case. Those of our members who went to vote despite the suffered abuse were rejected for a second time.
COMMUNITY DESERVES A CLEAN NOMINATION MEETING There is widespread frustration in the Vancouver-Kingsway community that what should have been a clean and democratic nomination meeting turned out to be one where the will of the membership was lost in a chaotic voting procedure that allowed voting improprieties. In the eyes of many observers, Mr. Dix was obviously supported strongly by the provincial executive.
A NEW VOTE IS IN THE INTERESTS OF THE NDP In the interests of democracy and of the NDP, we demand that the provincial executive set things straight by promptly calling a new nomination meeting where residency is properly checked, the right of members to a safe and secret vote is guaranteed, and where the one person one vote rule is abided by.
COMPLAINT SHALL NOT END WITH CHANGE OF EXECUTIVE ON DECEMBER 19TH The take-over of the Vancouver-Kingsway executive by Mr. Dix's people at the December 19th 2004 AGM (3 pm at the Trout Lake Community Centre) shall not mark the end of this complaint. We write on behalf of the outgoing executive and as individual members. We expect a timely reply.
Arlene Schimmelpfennig, President, 604-219-9243, firstname.lastname@example.org
Isabel Lopez, Vice-President, 604-324-4484, email@example.com
Andrew Adler, Membership Secretary, 604-224-1249, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sylvia Dodd, Treasurer, 604-255-6776, email@example.com
Victor Finberg, Provincial Council Alternate, firstname.lastname@example.org
Michele Todd, Fundraising Convenor, 604-299-7994, email@example.com
Alvin Lau, Committee Chair, 604-432-1081, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sharon Hager, Committee Chair, 604-435-7373, email@example.com
This letter has been endorsed by candidates to the nomination
Shavinder Parmar, 604-435-4849, firstname.lastname@example.org,
Roberto Rous, 604-438-9535, email@example.com, and
Alicia Barsallo, 879-3246, firstname.lastname@example.org
To Vancouver-Kingsway NDP Members
If you know of additional improprieties surrounding the nomination process, please e-mail Andrew Adler at email@example.com or leave a telephone message at 604-224-1249.
To those of you who are considering tearing up your NDP card, please do not. We need people like you in the NDP to prevent a further erosion of constituency autonomy and democratic values. Please keep in touch. The members of the outgoing local executive are committed to continuing to work to empower our community.