Todd Stone has the glitziest campaign of the six running for BC Liberal leadership.
Four people are key in the Kamloops MLA’s bid to become opposition leader, and, maybe, premier: former adman and defeated BC Liberal cabinet minister Peter Fassbender; Brittney Kerr from Vision Vancouver and Team Trudeau; ex-Christy Clark fartcatcher Stephen Smart; and Premier Amor de Camera’s 2017 campaign photographer, John Lehmann.
They’ve changed Stone’s hairstyle and put him through oratory lessons. His message is focussed on three key words: bold, vision, plan.
As much as they can repackage the admitted Triple Deleter, they can’t hide his ICBC baggage.
The Crown auto insurer and driving regulator was described as a “dumpster fire” by his successor, NDP Attorney-General David Eby, as it careens toward a $1.3 billion deficit this fiscal year.
That was Monday.
Then, on Tuesday, all the other campaigns, save for also-ran Sam Sullivan, agreed on something: they wanted an internal investigation into Stone’s membership drive. They didn’t get it, so they went to the media.
Then, the bombshell on Friday. A full-blown scandal on the eve of the selection of a new leader, when Stone’s camp admitted 1,349 memberships were cancelled. Stone’s shady Victoria political campaign data mining contractor, AggregateIQ, created fake email addresses for new members who speak little or no English among Richmond’s Chinese community and Surrey’s South Asians.
AggregateIQ is the company that played a key role in the Brexit referendum’s winning Leave campaign. It is under investigation by privacy authorities in the United Kingdom and B.C.
Globalization also means foreign influence in political campaigns.
Communications Security Establishment, Canada’s digital spy agency, studied cyber threats to Canada’s democratic process. Its report noted the 2016 U.S. presidential election, when both the Republicans and Democrats were targeted by Russian cyberespionage.
CSE said nation-states could try the same thing to Canada during the 2019 federal election. Is B.C. at risk?
“We assess that the threat to Canada’s democratic process at the sub-national level (i.e. provincial/territorial and municipal) is very likely to remain at its current low level,” CSE reported. “However, some of Canada’s sub-national political parties and politicians, electoral activities, and media are likely to come under increasing threat from nation-states and hacktivists.”
On that count, theBreaker wonders about the endorsement of Stone’s campaign by Erin Chutter.
Who is she, you ask?
A longtime federal Conservative. BC Liberal and Vancouver NPA strategist, Chutter is also a mining executive, as president of Rare Capital Corp., chair of Global Energy Metals Corp. and director of Khot Infrastructure. What makes Chutter newsworthy is her other gig: In December 2016, she was installed as the honorary consul of Russia in Vancouver.
That means a Stone endorser represents Vladimir Putin.
Ambassador to Canada Alexander Darchiev presented the consular patent at a Vancouver Club ceremony in December 2016, “stressing that Ms. Chutter’s extensive business background both in Russia and Canada would contribute to enhancing bilateral trade and investment, as well as regional and people-to-people contacts, especially between British Columbia and Russian Far East,” said the embassy’s website. “This will surely benefit Russian Canadians as a vibrant and important community in multicultural Canada.”
Darchiev and Chutter also met with B.C.’s Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon.
Amnesty International reported in 2016-2017 that “restrictions on rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly increased” in Russia. Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested Jan. 28 during mass, anti-Kremlin protests alleging the March 18 election is rigged in favour of Putin.
Stone spokesman Smart did not respond to theBreaker. Neither did Chutter.