More than half the contestants for the BC Liberal Party leadership, including winner Kevin Falcon, failed to meet last week’s Elections BC deadline for campaign financing reports.
Falcon, along with losing contestants Val Litwin and Renee Merrifield, were fined $500 each and have until June 6 to file their returns. Stan Sipos, a late entrant to the race, was granted an extension due to what Elections BC called “extenuating circumstances.” He also faces a deadline of June 6. Falcon has not immediately responded for comment.
Gavin Dew, Michael Lee and Ellis Ross filed on time, but the reports released May 11 show that Lee exceeded the party-imposed $600,000 spending limit.
The Vancouver-Langara MLA reported $622,000 income — $568,000 in donations and $50,000 in party transfers — and spent $642,000, including $46,000 on advertising, in his second bid to lead the party.
Runner-up Ross, the Skeena MLA, raised $487,000 in donations and $15,000 from party transfers and spent just over $514,000, including $84,000 on advertising. Ross disclosed nearly $6,000 in prohibited donations, including one for $960 from the Canadian Alliance of Chinese Associations, a Richmond-based group related to the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front foreign-influence campaign.
Dew counted $135,000 income and was left with a $1,100 surplus.
On Feb. 5, Falcon won the phone and online vote on the fifth ballot with 52.19% of weighted votes (4,541.35 points) to Ross’s 33.65% (2,928.33). Lee was third with 14.14% (1,230.31).
The race was held under a cloud of controversy as Falcon opponents complained about fraudulent memberships.
A month before Falcon won, managers of five candidates wrote party officials seeking an audit because they feared the election would be tainted by thousands of allegedly illegitimate memberships sold by the Falcon campaign team. An internal party audit found more than 32,000 new memberships were sold B.C.-wide, with much of the growth concentrated in Surrey and Abbotsford riding associations.
Lee’s campaign manager, Diamond Isinger, complained in a Jan. 31 email to the party that contractor Votem did not have basic safeguards to limit the use of multiple IP addresses and virtual private networks, nor was the party allowing real-time scrutineers.
When Lee confronted Falcon at the Jan. 18 candidates’ debate, Falcon dismissed the allegations and accused Lee of “creating a cloud of distrust.”
With hours to go in voting on Feb. 5, a BC Supreme judge rejected a petition from BC Liberal member Vikram Bajwa that aimed to delay the release of results by 15 days in order to investigate the allegations.
After Falcon’s win, Andrew Wilkinson, who led the party in the 2020 election, stepped aside in Vancouver-Quilchena. North Vancouver resident Falcon won 58% of the vote in the April 30 by-election over the BC NDP’s Jeanette Ashe, wife of Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
Falcon is expected to complete his legislature comeback later this month when he is sworn in. The runner-up in the 2011 leadership race to Christy Clark quit politics in 2012 after 11 years in multiple cabinet portfolios and became executive vice-president at developer Anthem Properties.