Friday, February 11, 2011

The FSA tests and Bountiful

Chris Selley suggests the discussion of good FSA tests from Bountiful schools misses the point.
Worth reading here.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

How serious are the Liberals about fighting membership abuses?

Last fall, the acting chief electoral officer took action over evidence false filings might have tainted the recall process, as this story indicates.

Anti-HST group claims Elections BC is derailing recall effort
VICTORIA— Published Monday, Nov. 08, 2010 offence
The top organizer of the Fight HST campaign says Elections BC is using intimidation tactics to derail recall efforts, after the non-partisan agency revealed it has asked the RCMP to investigate the conduct of seven canvassers involved in the group’s anti-tax petition.

But the Liberal party and the Kevin Falcon campaign staff haven’t shown any similar desire to discover how Kamloops Blazer junior hockey players - possibly the entire team - were signed up as party members without their knowledge or consent.
Who signed them up? Were signatures forged? How many other party members were signed up in the same way? Has the organizer been fired by the Falcon campaign?
And why hasn’t the party, if it is concerned about the integrity of the process, turned the information over to police?
It is a criminal offence to utter forged documents - that is to use or attempt to cause the use of a document known to be false. It's also against the law to "present a false fact with the fraudulent intent to induce a person to act on the misrepresentation." Like, possibly, claiming a 17-year-old junior hockey player has filled out and signed a membership form, and paid the fee, when he hasn't.
It’s tough to believe the party is serious about enforcing the rules if there are no consequences for violations, beyond the cancellation of the memberships if offenders are caught.
And the response of the Falcon campaign and the party to the story below suggests that's the case.

Blazers signed up as Liberals - without their knowledge
By Christopher Foulds - Kamloops This Week
February 08
Kamloops Blazers players were signed up to B.C. Liberal Party memberships by a supporter of leadership candidate Kevin Falcon.
The problem is, none of the players were aware of their membership in the party.
"We learned yesterday (Feb. 7) that one of our supporters had signed up several members of the Kamloops Blazers hockey team as members of the B.C. Liberal Party without their knowledge," Falcon's campaign manager Norman Stowe said.
"On learning the details, we immediately contacted party headquarters to advise them. We told them we believe these memberships are not valid and  should be removed from the party membership list."
Stowe told KTW someone in the Blazers' organization signed up the players, though he did not know if the memberships were accompanied by the $5 youth membership fee.
Tom Gaglardi, majority owner of the Western Hockey League club, is a supporter of Falcon's leadership bid.
Stowe said the Falcon campaign learned of the dubious sign-ups when someone in Kamloops contacted the campaign.
"I'm only guessing, but it could have been the whole team," Stowe said when asked how many players had been made instant Grits.
For their part, the Kamloops Blazers issued a statement from vice-president and general manager Craig Bonner, which reads in full:
“I have been informed that applications for membership to the B.C. Liberal Party by our players were handled incorrectly. I take full responsibility for this communication error and have asked the B.C. Liberal Party to withdraw the subject applications for membership.”

Leadership campaigns run big fraud risk

The next premier probably won't be selected by cats and dogs signed up as Liberal party members.
But he or she could be.
The flap over a cat signed up as a Christy Clark-supporting Liberal, alleged fraud and mass membership sign-ups are a reminder how out-of-control the leadership contests for both parties are.
It's a selection system that looks out of some barely there democracy, rather than a province that considers an independent Elections B.C. essential - except when it comes to campaigns to select a premier and opposition leader.
First the cat.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that a cat - "Olympia Marie Wawryk" - had been signed up as a Liberal party member after an application and $10 had been sent to the party in December. The cat belonged to Kristy Wawryk, a Clark supporter and Liberal riding association president.
The paper asked Wawryk about it. She initially claimed that Olympia was a great aunt who lived with her, before confessing it was her cat. (Note - it's best to tell the truth or not answer questions when a reporter calls; lies usually backfire.)
A friend had signed the cat up as a prank, she said.
Meanwhile, a rather lame website mocking the Clark cat - - was already online. Sean Holman at revealed the site had been registered three days before the story broke.
And CTV found the site had been set up by a staffer at Campaign Research, a political campaign company hired by as part of George Abbott's leadership effort.
Abbott said the staffer learned of a news story being developed on the cat and set up the site without his approval. (Which raises more questions: How did he know about the story? Why does Abbott need to hire a Toronto campaign firm?)
Next Kevin Falcon accused the Clark campaign of irregularities in signing up new members, a charge which was undermined when it came out that his campaign had signed up members of the Kamloops Blazers junior hockey team without telling them. A Falcon supporter owns the team.
The Liberal party says it will catch any fraud.
It's hard to see how. The deadline for signing up new members eligible to vote Feb. 26 for a new leader was last Friday. Falcon says he signed up 17,500 new party members; Mike de Jong claims 10,000; Clark 25,000. Abbott is silent on their numbers.
The party says 50,000 new members joined since the leadership race began.
It's hard to see how they can be checked in three weeks.
That's a big concern. Falcon did not have 700 volunteers who each signed up 25 new party members to support him. Key organizers, especially in the South Asian community, signed up hundreds of new party members.
That's allowed. And the IndoCanadian community, in particular, has a history of recognizing the benefits of political involvement.
But the concern is that not all of those signing up are really interested in the party and its leadership candidates. They might be simply helping out a friend or politico who wants to deliver a lot of support to one candidate.
That raises concerns about what's expected in return. And mass sign-ups mean long-time, committed party members have much less say in the leadership choice.
And as both parties have opted for online and phone voting, fraud is a genuine concern.
The Liberals are looking to reduce the impact of mass sign-ups this weekend, when convention delegates will be asked to adopt a system that gives each riding 100 votes, to be allocated based on a vote of party members in the riding. Signing up 2,000 new members in one riding would be less of an advantage. The change needs a two-thirds majority to pass.
It's a shoddy system, even without touching on problems with leadership campaign donations and spending.
Parties can set their own voting rules. But Elections B.C. should be in charge of the process, to make sure the rules are followed.
Footnote: The New Democrats have similar issues. Mass sign-ups have played big roles in previous campaigns and the Adrian Dix camp irritated rivals with a flood of last-minute new members in this race.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Another look at the Insite

Vancouver's safe injection site, Insite, gets a close look in the New York Times.