Elections BC says it sent a reprimand to former Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s re-election campaign about robocalls, instead of a get out the vote email on election day.
A citizen who complained Oct. 15 to Elections BC mere minutes after receiving an email from Stewart and his Forward Together party received a response Dec. 2 from Elections BC investigator Sara Burnett that the runner-up for the Vancouver mayoralty violated the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.
“The investigation has now concluded and subject Kennedy Stewart was found to be in contravention to section 45 of LECFA,” said Burnett’s email.
Elections BC now says that Stewart was reprimanded because robocalls are not permitted on election day, while emails without a placement cost are.
“The calls were primarily ‘get-out-the-vote’ messages, but did encourage voters to visit the Forward Together Vancouver website,” said Elections BC communications advisor Melanie Hull. “LECFA allows ‘get-out-the-vote' messages on general voting day, but election advertising is prohibited. We contacted the Stewart campaign and they amended the pre-recorded messages promptly.”
Specifically, Stewart ran afoul of the section that states: “An individual or organization must not transmit election advertising or non-election assent voting advertising to the public on general voting day.”
Stewart won’t be facing any further discipline on this complaint, however, because Elections BC decided to exercise discretion. Burnett determined Elections BC would not treat the contravention as an offence.
“In light of what has happened, a warning letter was provided to the subject and serves as a formal written reprimand,” Burnett wrote.
Hull said that, whenever possible, Elections BC tries to bring political participants into compliance with the law before resorting to a fine for violations of section 45. The only options are a reprimand or forwarding the file to the B.C. Prosecution Service.
The Stewart campaign email, sent at 11:18 a.m. Oct. 15, under the subject “33% to 33%,” cited a ResearchCo poll released the previous day that said the race was deadlocked. The message also attacked ABC Vancouver candidate Ken Sim’s platform and urged the recipient to share it with three friends and ask each one to go and vote.
“In 2018, Kennedy won by under a thousand votes, and this time it’s looking like it will be even closer. With only nine hours left until the polls close, we need to get every single voter out for Kennedy,” the email said.
In the end, it wasn’t even close.
Sim handily won the mayoralty with 85,732 votes over Stewart’s 49,593, four years after Stewart edged Sim.
According to an analysis by Andy Yan, director of the Simon Fraser University city program, Stewart won several election day polls in Kitsilano, Grandview Woodland, Mount Pleasant, Strathcona and the West End.
But, in the rest of the city, Sim dominated.
Stewart campaign spokesman Mark Hosak has not responded for comment.