The detailed background check for those seeking the Non-Partisan Association nod to run in October’s Vancouver civic election contains pointed questions about lobbying and work in the real estate industry.
A close read of the application form suggests rookie Coun. Hector Bremner faces an uphill battle to become the right-of-centre coalition mayoral candidate, because of the job he refused to quit when elected last fall.
theBreaker has seen a copy of the 51-page “potential candidate package,” which covers 54 topics, from the personal, professional and financial to the legal, political and ethical.
April 29 is the deadline for hopefuls to submit the forms to the NPA’s candidate selection committee. Bremner claimed on Twitter March 20 that he sent his package to NPA headquarters. Party president Gregory Baker told theBreaker on April 17 that Bremner’s form was incomplete and he had returned it to the candidate who had yet to resubmit.
Questions in the package include:
- Have you ever been a member or been employed to represent a special interest group or to lobby on behalf of that group?
- Have you ever registered for lobbying with the province of British Columbia, other provinces in Canada, or with the federal government?
- Do you own or work for a real estate development company in Canada?
- Is there anything from your past that could present a conflict of interest?
Bremner won last October’s by-election by exploiting left-wing vote-splitting and low voter turnout. His campaign was managed by veteran BC Liberal lobbyist Mark Marissen, the ex-husband of ex-Premier Christy Clark.
Despite the seat on city council, Bremner continues to work as a vice-president at the Pace Group and even promotes his position on the civic website. The BC Liberal-aligned public relations and lobbying firm’s website lists developers Aquilini Investment Group, Concert Properties and Intracorp among its clients. The Aquilinis own the Vancouver Canucks, Rogers Arena and its surrounding towers. The Aquilinis partnered with the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh first nations on major acquisitions of provincial and federal land in the city. Redevelopment proposals are expected to come before city council during the 2018 to 2022 term.
Bremner, a former aide to Deputy Premier Rich Coleman, is already the subject of two conflict of interest complaints from party members under city hall’s code of conduct. An investigator has been appointed in one case.
After theBreaker revealed the first complaint to city hall on April 12, Bremner recused himself from an April 17 public hearing on liquor sales in grocery stores, because of his past work to lobby municipal politicians in North Vancouver City and Maple Ridge for Save-On-Foods and the B.C. Wine Institute. On March 13, however, Bremner remained in the chamber when council decided to refer the matter to that public hearing.
theBreaker has learned that at least one complaint was made to B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists against Bremner for failing to report that he was a former public office holder on his 2015 registration to lobby finance minister Mike de Jong and deputy minister Peter Milburn on behalf of Steelhead LNG. The Lobbyists Registration Act requires disclosure of past employment in government and gives the Registrar power to levy fines up to $25,000. The first offence penalty for providing information that is not true on a return ranges from $1,000 to $7,500.
Thief? Rapist? Bankrupt? NPA demands to know
The party with the monogrammed grape logo is scheduled to choose its mayoral candidate and approve incumbents at a May 29 meeting. Bremner, accountability activist Glen Chernen, ex-Park Board chair John Coupar, entrepreneur Ken Sim and engineer George Steeves want to reclaim the mayor’s chair for the NPA. Mayor Gregor Robertson and Vision Vancouver took power in the 2008 election. Robertson will not run for a fourth term.
The NPA requires applicants to disclose whether they have been charged or convicted under the Criminal Code, any other federal or provincial statute or regulation, including the Income Tax Act and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. “Is there anything in your background that, if disclosed, could hinder your campaign or adversely affect the performance of your duties as an elected official?” the questionnaire reads.
The NPA wants to know whether a potential candidate or the potential candidate’s company has been involved in any lawsuits regarding dismissal for cause, unfair or illegal employment or labour practices; charged or found guilty of sexual or other harassment; found guilty of misappropriation of funds, declared bankruptcy or entered into a consumer or credit proposal of any kind; ever lost judgment in any legal proceeding; ever been audited by the Canada Revenue Agency; ever been charged with an offence or a complaint made against you pursuant to a municipal or regional district bylaw; ever been disciplined, charged, convicted, or involved in any breach of trust of the rules of a private or professional association; ever been involved in any controversy in the last five years that has the potential to go to litigation or public review; presently involved in any matrimonial or custody proceedings in any court; or contemplating litigation with City of Vancouver or any of its boards or departments, any political party or community group.
For those with prior political involvement, the NPA wants to know if they faced charges or findings of committing an election financing offence, receipt of illegal payments or gifts or any abuse in holding public office.
- Do you have any debts or unfulfilled financial obligations that could expose you to attempts at political interference by your creditors?
- Have you ever been suspended, expelled, or required to withdraw from an educational institution?
- During your education years, have you been either charged with, or the subject of a complaint of plagiarism, cheating on examination, or other improper conduct of any type?
“The potential candidate shall conduct himself or herself in a manner that respects the rights and legitimate democratic interests of all citizens, voters, political parties and shall avoid behaviour that is likely to bring the NPA and the electoral system into disrepute. If the NPA determines that during the time that the application is being processed the conduct of the applicant would tend to bring into disrepute the integrity of the NPA, it may on notice to the applicant refuse to further process the application in which case it shall return the deposit to the applicant.”
Plan to raise $250K required
The NPA requires prospective candidates to undergo background checks, the results of which shall remain confidential to all except the NPA board, legal counsel and those persons assisting the board. He or she must agree to put the interests of the NPA ahead of personal interests, and be available for a minimum 60 hours per month before June 30, rising to a minimum 120 hours per month from Aug. 16 until the Oct. 20 election day.
Commitments include door knocking, telephone campaigning, public meetings, volunteer and recruitment, membership recruitment, public appearances, campaigning from the campaign office, candidate training, assisting in fundraising and other duties assigned by the campaign manager.
Prospective candidates must provide five personal references and three business references, and buck-up. A $2,500 application fee is required, plus a detailed plan to raise $250,000 in campaign funds, list of the names and contact information of 300 eligible members who support his or her candidacy and names and contact information of 25 committed campaign volunteers.
Within five days of approval by the NPA candidate selection and green light committees, “evidence [is required] of $40,000” in the potential candidate’s campaign account and a $25,000 nomination deposit payable to the NPA. Unsuccessful candidates will receive $20,000 refunds.
There could be other costs for those seeking the job of mayor, which pays more than $168,000-a-year, or councillor, which pays more than $85,000.
“If required by the campaign manager, the candidate agrees and understands that they may be required to purchase a candidate services package from the association, which may include a set number of signs, brochures, paid telephone bank calls, media advertisements, campaign team training sessions and other assistance to be provided to the candidate.”
Social media will obviously be a big part of the campaign. The NPA wants to know whether a prospective candidate would agree to the party creating Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts in his or her name and allow a representative of the party to access existing accounts to review the content for potential issues concerning suitability as a candidate.
Are you aware of any other instances of electronic material posted on the internet or otherwise, which if publicly disclosed, could adversely affect your candidacy or reflect unfavourably upon the NPA?
The deadline was originally March 23. Membership is open to Canadian citizens, 18 and up, who are registered to vote in any municipality or regional district in B.C., and willing to pay $10 a year or $25 for a four-year membership.
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