Township of Langley Election Campaign 2014 Post Mortem – Part TWO …. Was there Political Interference? Was there financial gain? Many questions and much to consider!

Posted: January 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

As I suggested in Part ONE of our Post-Mortem for Election 2014 there is much more to be concerned about. Lets talk about the Elephant in the Room – Serious Political Interference? Does the following pass the smell test? Not in my opinion – You decide!

The most disconcerting incident that occurred during the recent election campaign is detailed below. I find it very unfortunate that our otherwise well respected firefighters (full time) have put themselves into the middle of a very questionable quagmire. As a key, respected and integral part of our community our firefighters deserve community respect. Having said that, taxpayers deserve to be treated with respect as to their well fought for rights within our democratic process; I believe the following speaks for itself.  

Township of Langley Firefighters Factor (Is this not Political Interference and more?) – It is my opinion and I believe that of the majority of residents that our firefighters are respected for the service that they provide our community. That aside, the question has to be asked, have firefighters seriously crossed the line with their very questionable partisan political activity? To be clear, while I don’t agree with their activity of public support for any specific candidate(s) I do respect their democratic right to do so. BUT, and it is a BIG BUT, in my opinion their actions appear to have crossed a significant line – read on! You be the judge?

It has become quite apparent over the years that Township of Langley Full Time Firefighters have made it a practice of using election campaigns in what appears to be an attempt to leverage their labor negotiations to benefit negotiation outcomes. It is one thing to come out in favor of a candidate or group of candidates; it is quite something else to appear to involve negotiating a contract in exchange for support? Is that what happened? Is there enough evidence to justify an investigation under Division 17 / Sections 151 (below) of the B.C. Local Government Act at the very least?

Please follow the time line below –

Candidate Questionnaire from IAFF 4550 – On or around the first of October 2014 the Township of Langley Fire Fighters Association IAFF 4550 distributed a package of 24 questions to members of Council. (I received a copy of these in confidence before I filed my nomination papers) After filing my nomination papers I received a different package of 16 Candidate Questions? We were asked to submit our answers that dealt with Public Safety and Firefighter issues in writing by noon October 17th, 2014 (the day of the Firefighters All Candidates Meeting).

Objective of this process – It was made clear that at the conclusion of this process our firefighters would decide who they would publicly endorse in the election. That style of endorsement was on display during the 2011 election.

All Candidate Meeting InvitationTownship of Langley Fire Fighters Association IAFF 4550 invited ALL candidates to an open All Candidates Meeting at the Willoughby Hall Friday October 17th, 2014 at 7:00 PM.

Questions asked of CandidatesDuring the All Candidates meeting, questions were drawn randomly from the questions and answers that were submitted in writing and were randomly asked of each candidate. NOTE – You will understand later why I ask this question – The only one of the 16 that was not asked of candidates during the meeting was the question on Labor Relations which was – “Despite a wave of freely-negotiated contracts for full-time firefighters in other B.C. Municipalities, Township of Langley firefighters have been working under an expired contract since 2009. Township of Langley firefighters believe that elected municipal leaders have a role to play in helping to ensure this matter is resolved in a fashion that is fair and equitable to all parties involved. Please describe your thoughts on this particular issue.” (At the conclusion of the meeting I found it highly unusual and interesting that this question would be absent from the questions asked of candidates.) I think the answer to that question lies in the following two Surprises! (A surprise to some maybe?)

Surprise Contract Agreement – With no contract since 2009 it was suddenly announced PRIOR to the end of October (October 27th to be exact in middle of the election campaign) that a settlement had been reached for 3% increase per year for 2010 and 2011. (Aldergrove Star 12/18/14) The questions? – Who had conversations with whom to suddenly settle this agreement at such a fortuitous time? What was promised to whom and by whom? Who was in on the settlement? Was there a third party active in getting this deal done with a condition of public support the goal by either side? Question – Does this not equate to an “inducement”? See below.

Surprise Contract Agreement – On the heels of the above settlement for years 2010 and 2011, the two parties began to immediately go into negotiations for 2012 – 2019 (During the election campaign) which was settled Dec. 4th for 2.5% per year plus other benefits. (Aldergrove Star 12/18/14) Question – Does this not equate to an “inducement”? See below.

NOTE – What makes all of this a possibility of and for an “inducement”? The Township of Langley Firefighters Association IAFF 4550 PUBLICLY provided their preferred slate of candidates with the following, which can only be described as – “Inducements” that could be to the benefit of both parties. Are ONE or BOTH parties guilty of a breach of Section 151?   

Firefighter paid for minimum half page full color Newspaper Ads listing all candidates they endorsed that they say supported their views of “Public Safety”! (I will add that all candidates if not a minimum of 95% of all candidates came out in full support of Firefighters.) Therefore their inference being that these are THE only candidates that support public safety is and was bogus. Could there be other reasons for their candidate preferences? – Contract negotiations?

Firefighters paid for and distributed large 4 ft. by 8 ft. full color signs posted throughout the Township of Langley by November 6th listing all candidates that they say endorsed and supported their views of “Public Safety”. (I will add that all candidates if not a minimum of 95% of all candidates came out in full support of Firefighters.) Therefore their inference being that these are THE only candidates that support public safety is and was bogus. Could there be other reasons for their candidate preferences? – Contract negotiations? OH, and by the way – When were these signs painted and by whom? Just asking the question?

Firefighters paid and distributed door hanging notices identifying their list of candidates with descriptions such as “Support Local Champions of Public Safety” and “ensure those elected to council agree that the safety of your family and your property is a priority”. (I will add that all candidates if not a minimum of 95% of all candidates came out in full support of Firefighters.) Therefore their inference being that these are THE only candidates that support public safety is and was bogus.

Direct Mail Letters that were sent to all Firefighters living in the Township of Langley requesting their support for their selected candidates as posted. It is suggested by Firefighters that there are about 1,200 – 1,400 firefighters living in the Township plus their family units. A fairly large voting block wouldn’t you say with the potential for significant voting affect. Extrapolate those numbers to include extended family and friends?

Council ratified the agreements – In one of their first acts after taking office these union contracts were ratified unanimously by this council.

I believe there is serious reason to be concerned with the possibility that Township of Langley Firefighters and/or Municipal Council members and/or Municipal Staff and/or Township Fire Dept. executive staff and/or a third party (in communication with one of the foregoing) could have seriously crossed the line and breached Section 151. Did they? This could only be determined through a thorough and comprehensive investigation.

What is that all aboutRead carefully the following excerpt from the B.C. Local Government Act. It is Interesting that these sections along with a few other pertinent sections were included in the candidate Nomination Packages so ignorance of the law is NO excuse. What qualifies as an inducement? This is not rocket science!

Definition of Inducement – “That which induces; incentive. The act of inducing.”

Excerpts from the B. C. Local Government Act (below)

Division 17 — Election Offences

Vote buying

151  (1) In this section, “inducement” includes money, gift, valuable consideration, refreshment, entertainment, office, placement, employment and any other benefit of any kind.

(2) A person must not pay, give, lend or procure inducement for any of the following purposes:

(a) to induce a person to vote or refrain from voting;

(b) to induce a person to vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular candidate;

(c) to reward a person for having voted or refrained from voting as described in paragraph (a) or (b);

(d) to procure or induce a person to attempt to procure the election of a particular candidate, the defeat of a particular candidate or a particular result in an election;

(e) to procure or induce a person to attempt to procure the vote of an elector or the failure of an elector to vote.

(3) A person must not accept inducement

(a) to vote or refrain from voting,

(b) to vote or refrain from voting for or against a particular candidate, or

(c) as a reward for having voted or refrained from voting as described in paragraph (a) or (b).

(4) A person must not advance, pay or otherwise provide inducement, or cause inducement to be provided, knowing or with the intent that it is to be used for any of the acts prohibited by this section.

(5) A person must not offer, agree or promise to do anything otherwise prohibited by this section.

(6) A person prohibited from doing something by this section must not do the prohibited act directly, indirectly or by another person on behalf of the first person.

Prosecution of organizations and their directors and agents

153.1  (1) An act or thing done or omitted by an officer, director, employee or agent of an organization within the scope of the individual’s authority to act on behalf of the organization is deemed to be an act or thing done or omitted by the organization.

(2) If an organization commits an offence under this Part, an officer, director, employee or agent of the organization who authorizes, permits or acquiesces in the offence commits the same offence, whether or not the organization is convicted of the offence.

(3) A prosecution for an offence under this Part may be brought against an unincorporated organization in the name of the organization and, for these purposes, an unincorporated organization is deemed to be a person.

Time limit for starting prosecution

153.2  The time limit for laying an information to commence a prosecution respecting an offence under this Part is one year after the date on which the act or omission that is alleged to constitute the offence occurred.

Penalties

154  (1) A person who contravenes section 151 or 152 is guilty of an offence and is liable to one or more of the following penalties:

(a) a fine of not more than $10 000;

(b) imprisonment for a term not longer than 2 years;

(c) disqualification from holding office in accordance with subsection (1.1) for a period of not longer than 7 years.

(d) [Repealed by 2014-19-71(a).]

(1.1) Disqualification under subsection (1) (c) is disqualification from holding office as follows:

(a) on a local government;

(b) on the council of the City of Vancouver or on the Park Board established under section 485 of the Vancouver Charter;

(c) as a trustee under the Islands Trust Act;

(d) as a trustee on a board of education, or as a regional trustee on a francophone education authority, under the School Act.

(2) A person or unincorporated organization who contravenes section 153 is guilty of an offence and is liable to one or both of the following penalties:

(a) a fine of not more than $5 000;

(b) imprisonment for a term not longer than one year.

(3) Any penalty under this Division is in addition to and not in place of any other penalty provided in this Part.

(4) A person or unincorporated organization is not guilty of an offence under this Part if the person or organization exercised due diligence to prevent the commission of the offence.

Conclusion – The effect the Firefighter’s Campaign had on Election 2014? Was their campaign only motivated by an inducement? Is that what stimulated their message? You decide? This apparent conflict or breach of this legislation is certainly in question, given the evidence available (above). It doesn’t pass the smell test and in my opinion certainly screams out for a public complaint being filed to investigate the issue at the very least. The Firefighters endorsed nine members of Council – EIGHT of them were elected.

Given the wording of the messages sent out by the Firefighters to residents and given the public’s trust of their firefighters I would strongly suggest this activity would/could have influenced/induced enough residents in their votes to have a significant effect on the final result, certainly for Councilor. The following reflects that possibility.

For the record there were FIVE candidates for Council that were no more than 465 votes below the last successful candidate, only one of which was endorsed by the firefighter slate. To put it into net political reality of how votes are affected by numbers check the following;

IF only 233 votes were taken away from the bottom three elected candidates (Firefighters recommended slate of candidate’s) and added to the top three unelected candidates you would have a different result in the outcome for Council!

Given the information above, given the widespread Firefighter campaign and it’s potential for widespread effect on the election outcome, does this not put the entire past election into question? Just asking?

This issue must be dealt with, otherwise our democratic process is susceptible to be hijacked by any significant special interest group and taxpayers will pay a significant price. As you will note above, the penalty, if found guilty, is severe, as it should be.

RG

Stay tuned for discussion of top of mind topics that directly affect us in the Township of Langley and our region to be published in the months ahead and much more….!

Protect your Democratic Rights – Protect your NEIGHBORS Democratic Rights – stay informed, stay involved and VOTE!!!

 

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Comments
  1. gadfly says:

    In remember that in a Municipal Election in the Township of Langley, a number of years ago (2000 or 2001), there was also an inordinately high number of billboards that have the firefighters’ “list of supported candidates”. I believe it also happens in other municipalities, the one just south of where I now live comes to mind in the 2014 municipal election, the one with a referendum on a Taj Mahal firehall. I do not know how widespread this type of “lobbying” is at the municipal level.

    • The firefighters are renowned for promoting their candidates but the vast majority are done with class, that is by communicating to their members through the mail, not public. The Township have for some time gone to this very public campaign which I find totally distasteful and with no class. Having said that I don’t deny their right to do this. This case is very different in that it is/was built around the settlement of a contract which is an inducement followed up by their endorsed candidates who at the end of the day voted unanimously for the contract. The question then has to be asked, was there ANY communication between any of the parties including third parties to conclude an agreement in favor in exchange for? IF there was that would breach and break the law as we see it. Stay tuned!

  2. Mike says:

    Who can we ask to investigate (not just send back a pre-conceived opinion)? Bob? Governor General? RCMP? All of them? Who looks into this?

    • The information necessary to file a complaint is pretty well contained in this BLOG Post. A complaint should be laid with the RCMP, I would suggest for anyone interested they should call E Division HQ to check, but I would strongly suggest a complaint being filed outside of our municipality to ensure no conflict given the issue at hand. Any resident of the Township of Langley can lay a complaint. There is some other info I can provide if you want to contact me directly at creeksidefarms@shaw.ca .

  3. Wei says:

    What I think is more glaring, is that Councillor Michelle Sparrow is the spouse of a Township Fire Fighter. Judging by her lack of previous political experience before she became a councillor it would appear, at least at face value, that she was a plant by the Township Fire Fighters. Now of course anyone is entitled to run for office IF they are free of a conflict. I can’t help but imagine the precipitant conversation progressing something along the lines of:

    “Hey, we need someone who sees our point of view”

    “Yeah, but none of us can run, that would be a conflict of interest, being Township employees and all.”

    “You know, how about one of our wives”

    “Yeah”

    “Hey Michelle, are you interested?”

    “Sure”

    etc.

    It does sound cynical, but it isn’t much of a degree of separation between Ms. Sparrow’s interests and that of the local Fire Fighters’ Union. I just wish, at this point, that she would abstain from voting on anything directly or indirectly relating to the Fire Department.

    I think Rick is right with the no class assessment. These people really make no apologies for being so forward with their wants and that says more about them and the people who swallow it up (no pun intended – haha) than anything else.

    • You raise a good point, but go back to the most glaring issue which is – Firefighters set up a (in my opinion) concocted process from candidates while putting into play their contract negotiations (negotiated during the election campaign) and miraculously come out two weeks before election day with a very well orchestrated campaign of support for their slate of candidates who after being sworn in voted unanimously for their contracts. What makes all of this particularly suspicious and very deserving of an investigation is a likely breach of section 151 of the Local Government Act. What needs to be answered is – Was there an agreement? discussion? or conversation with anyone involved Candidates? Campaign Managers? Senior Municipal Staff? Firefighter Union Representatives? Firefighters? or other third party? who were a party to any communication (written or verbal) to exchange contract agreement with endorsement support? That, as is outlined in my BLOG Post, would be a serious violation of the act. Anyone with an ounce of balance objectivity, regardless of where they stand politically, has to understand and see how wrong this activity, perceived activity is to our democratic process!!!!!

  4. Bruce E Batchelor says:

    The “problem” with the endorsements is that the supported candidates were eight in number, and not the total number or the names which supported resolving the contract dispute in response to the questions circulated by the firefighters before their public meeting. This modality prejudiced the fairness of the election to several candidates who were very close in vote count, and many of which did support contract resolution. There should be an investigation. And you may say that not many votes were involved, but that was not the firefighters position insofar as they boasted of having several thousand votes at their disposal.

    • There is a very significant problem with the endorsement and the Firefighter sponsored campaign that followed for those candidates. As you point out, the small number of votes different from those elected to those below the bar reflects on the impact the firefighters campaign had on the outcome. I could go on and on but I believe our case has been made. Investigations have been launched in the past for far less. Now, I don’t know if anyone recently heard some comments made by Angie Quaale about her work with our firefighters somehow related to her day job? Just asking, it is worth further discussion, NO?

      • Bruce E Batchelor says:

        There is another possible issue. I shall only put it out there, not being completely sure of the implications. Typically in the election of 2014 voters did not use their total of eight votes for council; the average was 6.5 votes. There were 22,654 ballots cast and 146,563 votes for council. So a sum in the order of 35,000 council votes were simply blown away. I shall not deny the voter that choice. But clearly only a small percentage, in the order of one or two percent, of this number would have utterly changed the outcome of the election. Let’s imagine that persons who place some number less than the total of eight allowed votes are actually thinking that there is some reason to abjure voting for Stark, Lee, Ross and two others, and lets assume that they are not simply running out of ideas. What if the firefighters’ advertising was sufficient to persuade some significant number of voters that candidates not on the firefighters’ list were not truly in favor of public safety or the resolution of the contract? In fact, Angie Quaale pulled 33.2% of the total vote, and that was the lowest of the elected group. Downwards from Ms Quaale and a total percentage of 31% of the vote there were no fewer than five candidates, some of whom were very high locally in a few polls. No current member of Council to my knowledge ever posted a reminder that that a) he/she appreciated the faith of the firefighters, and b) he/she shared their position on those issues with a number of other candidates. That is to say in short: it looks like once a candidate got onto that list, others even with the same position, were intended to be locked out. I believe that under the law this is called acting in combination. If the contract were negotiated between parties having knowledge of the combination the process becomes one of conspiracy. A problem with the firefighters’ advertising IMO was that it was not merely the publication of an endorsement by means of a modest paid announcement in a local newspaper, or a letter to the editor, but it was in fact a political campaign of some complexity and expense, and intended to have great visibility.

      • Well thought out. Now there will be those out there that believe this is some sort of conspiracy theory but NO much of what we are talking about are facts. 1) Put out questionnaire to ALL candidates, request written submission and invite all to an Open All Candidates meeting. Ask randomly selected questions of candidates EXCEPT one dealing with no contract since 2009. Clearly state purpose is to select candidates that they will support in the election. 2) 2 year contract (3% per year) negotiated middle of election campaign followed immediately by published list of Firefighter Slate endorsement. Contract negotiations for a 7 year (2 1/2% per yr.) contract negotiated during balance of election campaign 3) A comprehensive election campaign launched (paid for by firefighters) consisting of 4 by 8 signs, 1/2 page newspaper ads, door hanger drop (distributed by firefighters) and a direct mail letter campaign to firefighters ALL suggesting this is our selection of candidates who support Public Safety. Obviously all of that messaging was bogus to be polite or a lie if one was to be truthful.

        An independent investigation is the only thing that will clear up the smell that is resonating from this democratic intrusion!

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