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They Call It Democracy – Part 3

By Stuart Hertzog
October 15th, 2009

Follow the money

Why was this $62,000 transferred, and who had control of it?

Green dollars

Part of my complaint to Elections Canada was that I had learned that $62,000 had been transferred by the Party to the Saanich-Gulf Islands EDA for use by Elizabeth May for pre-writ activities. None of this money was offered to me, even though the Elections Act states that it is illegal for a Party to transfer funds to an EDA unless this money is offered to all nomination candidates on an equal basis.

According to the Green Party’s nomination contest report filed with Elections Canada, May didn’t appoint a financial agent, which means she claims to have spent nothing on her nomination campaign. I find this hard to believe, but let’s leave aside for now discussion of whether she actually used any of this money, and focus on just how and why it got there.

The answer to ‘how’ is by two means: asking other EDAs to transfer money to an Elizabeth To Win Fund; and a $50,000 transfer by the Party to the Saanich-Gulf Islands EDA. At its June, 2009 meeting, Council pased this motion after political campaign director Catharine Johannson had delivered her report:

MOTION: That Federal Councillors will ask their EDAs to donate up to $1000 or more to the Leader’s pre-writ campaign and that the Campaign Committee is looking for similar support from all EDAs across the country. CONSENSED

Note the “pre-writ” part. At its July, 2009 meeting, following another report from Ms Johannson, Council passed a motion approving a loan of up to $50,000 to the leader’s riding for “pre-writ activity once the leader has chosen the riding she will run in.” Council also learned that two emails asking EDAs to loan to the leader’s campaign had already raised $7,800 for the Elizabeth to Win Fund.

All this money and more eventually made its way to Saanich-Gulf Islands EDA.

Preparing the ground in Saanich…

It’s not illegal for a political party to transfer money to an EDA, but it is illegal if that money is only for the support of one nomination candidate. The Party brass had assumed that nobody would have the temerity to oppose the leader, but I’m pretty much a Nobody and at times can be fairly temeritificatious. The dictionary on my computer tells me that the line that divides boldness from foolishness or stupidity is often a fine one. Fools rush in, as they say.

The unexpected hit the unprepared, and the result was a national news story—but I’m rushing ahead of myself again. How temerificatious of me. Back in mid-July, the idea of running hadn’t yet temerified me. I was still thinking about it.

The Saanich-Gulph Islands EDA Board was briefed at its July 24th meeting. May graced the Board with her presence for 20 minutes by speaker phone. Preparing for her campaign dominated the meeting. Ideas included community events; home visits on Saltspring Island; a letter to members; a booth at the September 1st Saanich Fair; and an office and telephones ready by that time.

It was agreed there was no need of a nominating committee to search for suitable other candidates, as May’s campaign team had already decided to announce her candidacy on Labour Day, September 8th. Remember, at this time May was still pretending that she hadn’t decided to run in SGI. She maintained this pretence right up to her ‘official’ September announcement.

The Board elected to close its second bank account on Saltspring Island and consolidate everything into one account in Sidney. This would contain existing EDA funds plus everything received from the Party. The question of appointing a Financial Agent for Ms May was raised, but deferred to “think about it.”

…even as it shifts beneath their feet…

A s I was getting more intrigued with the idea of standing as a nomination candidate, I exerted my right as a Green Party member and observed the next EDA Board meeting. I arrived at this August 8th EDA Board meeting in time to hear the booming voice of May’s campaign manager John Fryer laying down the law. “Once the campaign has begun, the EDA ceases to exist. The campaign takes charge,” he pontificated—somewhat erroneously, I believe.

John Fryer

Elizabeth May’s campaign manager

Interesting fellow, this Fryer. A long-time NDP member, he was general secretary of the BC Government Employees Union from 1969 to 1983 and president of Canada’s second biggest union, National Union of Public and General Employees from 1980 to 1990, as well as being an adjunct professor at UVic’s School of Public Administration since 1991. Quite the heavyweight CV.

On his web site, he describes himself as “an internationally respected and widely consulted authority on labour relations and human resource issues,” with a specialty in public sector labour relations. He worked for the World Bank 2003–2004 as Special Advisor on Public Sector Reform.

Nice work if you can get it, and it certainly helped him meet the ‘right’ people, including Thomas d’Aquino, former President and CEO of the powerful Canadian Council of Chief Executives, whom Mr. Fryer gives as a reference. Sounds to me a lot like like getting chummy with the enemy.

When I asked John why he left the NDP, he replied that they’re “stuck in the politics of the last century.” Strange, but Mr. Fryer’s attitudes and behaviour in this campaign to me epitomise everything that’s wrong with old-style, devious, authoritarian, hierarchical politics. IMHO, of course.

But what right have I, a mere Nobody, to judge a Member of the Order of Canada, a recipient of Queen Elizabeth’s Golden Jubilee Medal, and an Honourary Life member of the Ontario Liquor Board Employees’ Union?

He certainly should be able to whip those naïve Greens into line.

Fryer laid out the timeline for the campaign, and informed the Board that lots of money was available for a successful Elizabeth May campaign “up to the entire $364,000” I believe I heard him say at one point. It sounded like a fantasy, but what was more down to Earth was the information that the money flowing to the EDA was being given on the basis that Elizabeth May becomes the candidate, and that Fryer as campaign manager controlled how the funds were to be spent.

Only if Elizabeth May became the candidate

That these funds transferred by the Party to the EDA were only to be available if Elizabeth May became the candidate and that her campaign manager would control their use, came in an email sent by the EDA’s financial agent. It read:

The central office is going to transfer more than normal funds to this EDA for the leader’s campaign, on condition that proper expense forms are used and approved by John Fryer, and… that the leader is the candidate for SGI EDA.

Money was certainly being spent. Fryer had negotiated a month-and-a-half contract at $2,625/month to rent an empty street-level retail space on Sidney’s Beacon Avenue, a total outlay of $3,937. This was clearly to be an Elizabeth May campaign office as the EDA had no need for such an extravagant luxury.

But the Sidney merchants’ association objected to a political office on their toney little high street. The story then became that this was to be a ‘community resource,’ but nobody bought that little deception. Furniture was donated, and an expensive multi-function copier/printer/fax machine was purchased.

Money not the only problem

During the media storm that followed my decision to stand against Ms May, attention was focussed on the possibility of an illegal transfer of funds by the Party. But unequal access to Party funds was not the only problem. Section 404.3(1) of the Elections Act states that not just money, but any Party goods or services also must be offered equally to all nomination candidates.

As well, Elections Canada considers a campaign to start when the first donation is collected or when a good or service is first used that later becomes part of a nomination campaign. To me, this means that the Party’s promotion of May’s potential candidacy in Saanich-Gulf Islands was also part of her campaign.

It also means that even though she may have pretended not to spend any money getting nominated, all the funds that had been poured into the EDA on condition that she became the candidate, was also part of her campaign. But that’s for Elections Canada to decide. I now had to deal with the other aspect.

My attention turned to trying to run what looked like an impossible campaign.

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Next: Part 4—Denial of service

Read other parts of this series:

  • Part 1—Challenge
  • Part 2—Green Politburo
  • Part 3—Follow the money
  • Part 4—Denial of Service
  • Part 5—Formal complaint
  • Part 6—Lessons learned

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