Group’s election efforts under fire as campaigning

A Nanaimo resident concerned that a lobby group breached the Local Government Act was turned away.

A Nanaimo resident concerned that a lobby group supporting specific municipal election candidates breached the Local Government Act was turned away by the RCMP after trying to file a complaint.

The complainant, who asked his name not be revealed, tried to file the complaint after learning the Concerned Citizens of Nanaimo Group – which has openly backed mayoral candidate Roger McKinnon, and council candidates Bill Bestwick, Bill McKay, Chris Cathers, Rod Lomas, and Brian Fillmore – did not register as a campaign organizer.

He was turned away twice by the Nanaimo RCMP detachment Thursday.

“I was told it isn’t in the Criminal Code so there is no offence,” he told the News Bulletin.

According to the province, if a member of the electorate is concerned someone has committed an election offence, they should “contact local police. The police are responsible for conducting an investigation and recommending to Crown counsel whether charges should be laid.”

The concerend citizens group is opposed to a supportive housing facility proposed for Uplands Drive near Hammond Bay Road and has distributed at least three mail-outs on its position on lo- barrier housing, as well as a flyer endorsing its six preferred candidates.

The candidates it supports have said they are not in favour of proceeding with the project, which, through the province’s Housing First strategy, is designed to house Nanaimo’s homeless.

Bill Inglis, group spokesman, registered his organization Thursday after learning of the oversight.

“I think it’s a bit of a stretch to look at the ad and say we’re sponsors of all of these candidates,” Inglis said. “What we’re doing is we’re saying to your public, ‘these are the candidates who support us,’ so when you’re voting, think about them.

“If you ask me are we a campaign organizer, we can now say yes,” he said. “So this is not a story.”

Under the Local Government Act, any person or any organization that endorses a candidate or opposes the selection of another candidate must register after their preferred candidate declares candidacy.

Oct. 14 was the deadline for council candidates to submit their nomination papers.

Penalties under the act, which was revised prior to the 2008 general municipal election to improve campaign transparency, include a fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment for up to a year, prohibition against holding an elected local government office position for six years, and prohibition on voting in municipal elections for up to six years.

RCMP spokesman Gary O’Brien, in an e-mail to the News Bulletin, said the complainant was turned away because he had no evidence.

“No evidence was presented [toward] what he was alleging was criminal,” wrote O’Brien. “[He was] told to go away and if he came back with a hint of criminality, it would be looked at.”

reporter2@nanaimobulletin.com