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HomeBusinessExclusive: Leak reveals BC Liberal membership audit hot spots

Exclusive: Leak reveals BC Liberal membership audit hot spots

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Bob Mackin 

Four out of 10 new BC Liberal memberships sold in Abbotsford South may be illegitimate, according to a document leaked to theBreaker.news.

Kevin Falcon (left), Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Stan Sipos, Gavin Dew, Val Litwin and Ellis Ross (BC Liberals)

The Jan. 6 spreadsheet for the leadership election organizing committee (LEOC) shows that before the leadership race, there were 264 memberships in the riding, represented since 2020 by rookie BC Liberal MLA Bruce Banman.

Another 637 were sold in time for the Dec. 17, 2021 cut-off. In total, LEOC is auditing 41.4% of the new memberships, the highest percentage of all 87 electoral districts. The province-wide average is 17.62%.

The colour-coded spreadsheet shows more than 32,000 new memberships were sold province-wide. The party had 6,606 members before the race began.

The Abbotsford South growth pales in comparison to Surrey-Panorama (1,960 new memberships), Surrey-Green Timbers (1,351), Abbotsford West (1,093) and Surrey-Newton (1,287). The party is auditing between 21.4% and 29.23% of new memberships in those ridings.

More than a third of new memberships are also subject to additional vetting in Surrey-Whalley (36.2%), New Westminster (35.39%), Chilliwack (33.56%), and Burnaby North (33.3%). By comparison, West Vancouver-Sea-to-Sky has a high rate for audit of 29.12%, after it added 467 new memberships to its existing 136. West Vancouver-Capilano, the home riding of perceived frontrunner Kevin Falcon, had 90 before the leadership race, and added 467 new memberships; 19.43% of them are under audit. 

Neither LEOC co-chairs Colin Hansen and Roxanne Helme nor party president Cameron Stolz responded to theBreaker.news.

On Jan. 11, Hansen and Helme released a statement to party members that said 3,025 of the current 43,000 active party members remain flagged, but no memberships had been cancelled or members expunged. They denied the Falcon campaign’s allegations that a racist algorithm was targeting new members of South Asian or Chinese heritage for audit.

“The criteria used to identify memberships for further review is based on a number of objective measures,” the statement said. “It does not use any form of demographic characteristics to identify individuals for audit.”

Red flags sparking followup included anonymized IP addresses, missing email addresses and phone numbers, credit cards that don’t match the member’s name or address, non-Canadian IP addresses, and overuse of a single IP address. LEOC said the party has been contacting members directly to verify their membership data. 

“Members will be given every opportunity and supported through the end of the party’s registration period to address any issues concerning their membership data.”

The auditing is vindication for the managers of candidates Gavin Dew, Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Ellis Ross and Stan Sipos. theBreaker.news was first to report about their joint Jan. 5 letter to LEOC, expressing concern about potential voter fraud and “the risk of catastrophic reputational damage” to the party and its staff, executive and volunteers. 

The party already planned to randomly audit 10% of memberships, but the five managers said their independent reviews of the membership list suggested between a third and half of all memberships should be flagged for audit for a variety of irregularities.

Eligible BC Liberals will vote for a new leader in an online, preferential ballot election Feb. 3-5. The new leader will replace Shirley Bond, who took over on an interim basis after Andrew Wilkinson quit following the 2020 election.

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