Election fraud means B.C. mayor ‘wrongfully hired’

Could have implications for provincial politics

A recent decision concerning an election in the little town of McBride, B.C., amounts to a “wrongful hiring” case magnified triple time.

The British Columbia Supreme Court has pushed the incumbent mayor out of office on the argument that he won more than three times the votes of his opponent, the former mayor, by fraudulent means.

What seems to have happened more precisely is that Mike Frazier seized an opportunity of misrepresentation created by other people.

Frazier, a McBride councillor, was running against Maurice Bonneville in the town mayoral election. Just a few days before voting commenced, he received a memorandum from a citizens group saying that Bonneville supported a recommendation that would raise the property taxes in McBride to pay for an environmental assessment in an adjoining village.

Frazier knew, and the official documents attached to the memo showed, that this was untrue: McBride could not use its taxes to fund activities in another jurisdiction, and the regional district — where Bonneville sat as a director and Frazier sat as his alternate — had tabled consideration of the hazard-land study until after the election.

Nonetheless, Frazier distributed the memo in a cafe, remarking, “Look what your f---ing mayor has done to us now,” and to another candidate, Mert Greer. Soon the memo appeared all over town, including under the windshield wiper of Bonneville’s car when he went grocery shopping.

Of the 328 votes cast, they fell out at 187 for Frazier, 88 for Greer and 53 for Bonneville. Bonneville challenged the results under the B.C. Municipal Act, which forbids the use of “fraudulent means” to “compel, persuade or otherwise cause a person to vote or refrain from voting for a particular candidate.”

Justice W. Glenn Parrett has found that Frazier violated this provision in contending “that having been handed a document which clearly attacks his opponent on a basis he knows and is satisfied is incorrect and untrue, it is permissible to duplicate the document and to begin distributing it.

“The fact that he told some of the people to whom he delivered it that it was not correct is wholly inadequate, when the inevitable result occurs and the document is further duplicated and distributed.”

Political forces opposed to B.C.’s New Democratic government have been cheered by the decision, given that they are using the same provision in the provincial Elections Act to challenge the seats of four government members. They contend that the NDP acted fraudulently in campaigning on a budget-surplus platform only to reveal a few days after the election that the province’s books were firmly in the red. The trial in that big “employment” case is slated to begin April 10.

For more information:

Bonneville v. Frazier, 2000 BCSC 416, Prince George Registry No. 09361, March 7/00.

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