New Westminster Police Department is investigating whether the incumbent school board chair broke the Local Government Act on the first day of advance voting.
Jason Chan, campaign manager for the New West Progressives, said in an interview that he happened to be a scrutineer on Oct. 5 at Queensborough Community Centre when he recognized school board candidate Gurveen Dhaliwal of Community First New Westminster.
“I didn’t think much about it at the time. I went back out to my car once I’d finished, but then I thought better of it and went back in to check with the presiding election officer there just to confirm,” Chan said. “He confirmed with me verbally that it was indeed Gurveen Dhaliwal scrutineering on behalf of [city council candidate] Ruby Campbell.”
Chan said he asked why Dhaliwal was allowed to scrutineer, because a candidate is not allowed at a voting place except to vote. Chan said the presiding officer did not realize Dhaliwal was a candidate, but proceeded to contact chief election officer Jacque Killawee. Killawee later confirmed to Chan by email that Dhaliwal had been present at the voting station for an hour and that she contacted Dhaliwal to remind her of the law.
Chan said candidates were provided “extensive, comprehensive” handbooks on election rules and laws and this is not Dhaliwal’s first municipal election. She won a seat on school board in 2018.
“It seems strange to me that the [chief election officer] has not deemed it serious enough to action upon it,” Chan said.
Killawee’s email said a complaint could be made to police for investigation and referral to Crown counsel for possible prosecution. The law sets a maximum $5,000 fine and up to one year in jail upon conviction. Chan formally complained to police on Oct. 9.
Killawee told a reporter on Oct. 11 that she immediately contacted Dhaliwal’s party, official agent and Dhaliwal herself to remind them of the law and penalties, “and to instruct the candidate to refrain from further attendance at City of New Westminster voting places, other than for the purpose of casting their vote.
“After consultation with our solicitor, no further action has been taken by this office.”
Neither Dhaliwal nor Campbell have responded for comment.
Dhaliwal Tweeted a photo of herself wearing an “I voted” sticker at 1:09 p.m. on Oct. 5. “So proud to have voted for the @Community1stNW team!” she wrote.
On Oct. 6, Killawee sent a generic memo to candidates to remind them that no candidate may be present in a voting location other than to vote, even as a scrutineer.
In a subsequent generic memo on Oct. 7, Killawee mentioned that she received a question about consequences for a candidate who breaks the rules.
“I am going to limit my response to the rules around candidates and attending a polling locations. But please know that it is the candidate’s responsibility to have read the relevant Acts and comply with the legislation as was noted in your nomination meeting,” said Killawee’s email.
“With regards to candidates attending polling stations pursuant to section 120(4) of the Local Government Act, ‘a candidate must not be present at a voting place … while voting proceedings are being conducted”, except in order to vote. There is no exception for where a candidate also happens to be a scrutineer for another election at the same voting place’.”
A statement from New Westminster Police public information officer Sgt. Justine Thom confirmed police are investigating.
“We received a call from a member of the public relating to conduct of voting proceedings. Investigators are working to collect evidence and determine if a violation of the Local Government Act took place,” Thom said.
Updated: Oct. 14. The chair of Community First New Westminster says the incumbent school board chair forgot about the rules when she acted as a scrutineer on the first day of advance voting.
In a prepared statement, Cheryl Greenhalgh, chair of the NDP-aligned party, admitted that Dhaliwal was sworn-in as a scrutineer, but claimed that the issue had been addressed and resolved with Killawee.
“It was a lapse of memory on Gurveen’s part that she could not be a scrutineer on behalf of another candidate,” said Greenhalgh’s statement. “Her intention was to observe the process in the voting location to provide information to other scrutineers who were volunteering with the voting process that day. She stayed at the voting location for less than an hour and left on her own accord.”
The Greenhalgh statement denied that Campbell was aware of Dhaliwal scrutineering on her behalf because scrutineer forms are issued by the campaign team to voting day organizers.
“Gurveen deeply regrets this mistake,” said Greenhalgh’s statement, which also said Community First New Westminster has reviewed its procedures to ensure there is no repeat incident.
Greenhalgh said Dhaliwal is not available for an interview.
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