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November 4, 2010

BC Liberal Leadership Rules and Law

Who will finance the takeover of the BC Liberal party this time? We still don't know who paid for Gordon Campbell's campaign when he defeated Gordon Wilson in 1993.

As is frequently the case in breaking news, on PublicEye.com Sean Holman published some of the most important information regarding the BC Liberal leadership race, the relevant sections of the party's constitution. The party's president must call a meeting of the party's executive within 28 days of receiving the resignation of the leader, i.e. by December 1st. That meeting of the executive must set a leadership vote for a date within six months, i.e. no later than May 31st.

While it only costs $10 for a 4 year membership in the BC Liberals, that discount membership fee does not carry voting rights in the event of a Leadership Vote. Section 64 of the BC Liberal Party constitution states that in order to vote on leadership you must have been a member in good standing for at least 41 days prior to the vote and must have paid a registration fee yet to be set by the executive for the vote. Of course there hasn't been such a vote since Gordon Campbell hijacked the party from Gordon Wilson over 17 years ago. Ten dollar members may discover that it costs hundreds to be eligible to vote for the leader who will immediately become premier. When will they say how much it will cost to be eligible to vote?

Another change since Campbell replaced Wilson as leader of the BC Liberals is the application of the BC Election Act. Disclosure rules for leadership contests didn't exist in 1993, but the 2011 leadership contest comes under the provisions of the Act. Section 211 of the Act requires all leadership contestants for a registered political party to file returns within 90 days of the leadership vote. The report, which must include disclosure of expenses and donors, must be made public. That means that by September we will know who donated how much to each of the BC Leadership candidates.

Section 283 of the Election Act states that the Chief Electoral Officer may make regulations for any purpose for which regulations are contemplated. That is very important because the time period to be captured by leadership donation and expense reports must be specified. For example, as reported by Sean Holman, a YouTube video was published in support of Rich Coleman's October 28th fundraiser. Listen to the video and you'll probably agree with me that it is part of a leadership campaign. Will efforts like that be captured by the Election Act?

The Chief Electoral Officer needs to make the rules clear as soon as possible.

British Columbians deserve to know who finances the campaign for the next leader of the BC Liberal party, who will automatically be premier until the May 2013 election - over two years after the BC Liberal leadership vote and 18 months after the HST initiative vote.