On September 9, 2018 the Official Opposition Caucus issued a press release containing serious allegations against me and the use of our Community Office in North Vancouver-Lonsdale. These allegations were subsequently investigated and reported on by Global News and CBC News in a fair and balanced manner. I also issued a clarifying statement about the allegations on facebook. For the sake of transparency, I have included below a copy of my online statement, as well as links to the relevant stories.
I want to thank everyone who has contacted me and my Community Office to provide words of encouragement in the face of this attack. Throughout all of my efforts as your MLA, I never forget who I’m here to serve and I am humbled by your support.
Always in your service,
I want to acknowledge a story about me by Richard Zussman that was recently released by Global News, titled “B.C. Liberals accuse NDP MLA of misusing publicly funded office”.
As North Vancouver’s MLA I work hard to make my Community Office as open and welcoming as possible, and strongly believe in making it feel like a place that belongs to the community. We actively advertise my Community Office as a place where mothers can find a comfortable space to breastfeed, have had families come in just to play at our kid’s play area, and love it when people stop by for tea and pamphlets.
Another service we provide is allowing not-for-profit community groups the ability to use our space free of charge. I adjusted the office layout to support this purpose and have advertised the opportunity in my mail outs. We proudly lend the space to study groups, housing organizations, craft clubs, environmental groups, and more during the evenings and weekends. Even my predecessor, a former MLA with the BC Liberals, has come to the Community Office as a board member of a not-for-profit community group that regularly uses my Community Office for meetings.
These community groups sign agreements committing to ensuring that they abide by the rules and regulations set out by the Legislative Assembly of BC. For example, constituency offices cannot host campaign activities that support particular candidates or political parties. This is why I restrict my own local BC NDP Riding Association from using the space.
According to their application form, Force of Nature Alliance applied to use our space to “host a community group working on climate solutions on the North Shore”. This did not raise any red flags and they were approved use of the space. It was not until Global News contacted me that I learned they were hosting events relating to the municipal election.
I have had several discussions with Force of Nature Alliance since I learned of this late Friday. While I’ve been assured that the nature of their activities in our Community Office thus far have been related to generally increasing civic engagement in the municipal election and have not involved supporting or promoting specific candidates, it was confirmed to me today that they do intend to endorse candidates in North Vancouver. Given this, I would not consider further use of the Community Office by this group to be in compliance of the rules and regulations set out by the Legislative Assembly of BC. Force of Nature Alliance understands this and their remaining bookings will be cancelled. Their last use of the space was on September 4 and their decision to endorse candidates was made on September 6.
While political engagement is incredibly important, it is nevertheless also important that public resources not be used to benefit the electoral success of specific candidates. Community groups that become engaged in these activities may apply to use the space again after their activities and the election have concluded.
I am grateful that these activities have been brought to my attention when they were. To provide greater clarity to all of our users, I have since updated our office rental policy to clearly and expressly restrict all third party organizations from hosting activities relating to a political party, municipal election, provincial election, federal election, or referendum in our office.
We’re incredibly fortunate to have community groups that are committed to making the world a better place by engaging in electoral politics. I wish Force of Nature Alliance the very best in their upcoming activities.
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