A former Conservative Party insider with ties to the controversial blog EthicalOil.org will play a key role in the Metro Vancouver transit referendum.
Hamish Marshall will work with the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation (CTF) to run the campaign for the ‘no’ side, said Jordan Bateman, B.C. director for the CTF.
“He’s an experienced campaign manager, he’s worked on various Conservative campaigns around the country,” Bateman said.
Marshall was a pollster for the federal Conservative Party in 2008, and has worked as a research director of public affairs at Angus Reid Public Opinion. He was manager for strategic planning in the Prime Minister’s Office and has been involved in campaigns for the Wildrose Party in Alberta, Kevin Falcon’s B.C. Liberal leadership campaign and also worked with former B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins.
“I love the idea that people should be given the ability to vote on things like tax hikes and tax cuts so I’m a big believe in that kind of process,” Marshall said of his motivation to get involved in the campaign.
“What could be more fun for a campaign than standing up for middle class people who have to pay their taxes and drive to work every day?”
Marshall runs his own advertising and “digital public affairs” firm, Newclear Productions. The company has created websites for Conservative cabinet ministers Jason Kenney and Joe Oliver.
Newclear created the website for EthicalOil.org, a blog started by Alykhan Velshi, also a former PMO staffer. The blog promoted Canadian oil development and claimed that environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Tides were motivated by funding from foreign sources to campaign against the Alberta oil sands and pipeline development.
Marshall’s wife Kathryn is a former spokesperson for EthicalOil.org.
Marshall said EthicalOil.org’s current website is not the one his agency created and he hasn’t worked with the organization since 2012, however he still fully supports EthicalOil.org’s positive message about resource development.
Marshall and Bateman are casting their campaign as the David versus Goliath. The ‘yes’ side has organized as the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition, and includes a broad mix of business groups like the Vancouver Board of Trade, the BC Chamber of Commerce, Surrey Business Improvement Association, Unifor and the David Suzuki Foundation.
Marshall said he expects the ‘yes’ side to outspend the ‘no’ side by 50 to one.
“We’re up against all the big labour, big business, big environmental groups — all the elites,” Marshall said. “I love the idea of working on a campaign where we can stand up for the little guy.”
Bateman said the CTF will be releasing its own alternate plan for transit and transit funding the week of January 12.
The provincial government has required a referendum to be held before any new source of transit funding is approved. Starting March 16 and ending May 29, voters in Metro Vancouver will be asked to vote yes or no to a 0.5% regional sales tax. The tax would partially fund a $7.5 billion transit plan, which includes better bus service, a subway along Broadway to Arbutus Street, three lines of rail transit in Surrey and a replacement of the Patullo Bridge.
Additional funding would also need to come from the provincial and federal governments in order to pay for the plan.