The campaign is unfair, the result may be a fraud.
A year ago, the 2013 annual report and audited financial statements were in public hands. The independent auditor’s report was signed in March 2014. This year’s audit report and financials are withheld.
TransLink is delaying its annual meeting and release of 2014 financial statements, although the audit has been complete for months. The most recent quarterly financials available to the public are for the three months ended September 30, 2014. It takes no rocket-scientist to deduce the information withheld would not be helpful to the YES side of the the Transit Referendum.
Business in Vancouver led its May 2014 story with this:
TransLink ridership levels appear to have “hit a plateau” after decreasing by 4.9 million, or 2%, in 2013 compared with the year prior, the transit authority has reported.
The YES side has made no comprehensive disclosure of its spending of tax dollars but independent journalist Bob Mackin reports the Better Transit and Transportation Coalition budgeted almost $1 million and TransLink’s Mayors’ Council allocated $6 million. Other municipal governments in Metro Vancouver are spending additional sums to promote a regional sales tax to provide TransLink with yet another source of public funds. More revenue enables TransLink to continue paying the highest executive salaries and consultant fees in the world of transit.
Perhaps $10 million, mostly taxpayer dollars, are promoting a yes vote. That is about 250 times the NO side budget.
However, there is another perversion of the democratic process. The mail-in vote is conducted by civil servants, unsupervised by proponents and opponents of the question. Scrutineers of voting have long played an important role in ensuring voting fairness yet they are absent from the entire voting process now underway. Section 70(1) of the British Columbia Election Act act defines the role of scrutineers in regular voting:
A candidate or the candidate’s official agent may appoint candidate representatives in accordance with this section to represent the candidate by observing the conduct of voting, registration at the time of voting and counting proceedings for the election.
In the current transit referendum, public officials have lined up almost exclusively on one side of the issue and public officials are handling completed ballots behind closed doors. The opportunity for fraud exists and the withholding of vital financial information demonstrates the people in control are motivated to pervert the vote result.
Can it happen? Has it happened? Last month, The Telegraph newspaper reported in Britain:
Postal voting fraud is ‘easy’, electoral commissioner says.
In his judgment against the Tower Hamlets mayor, Richard Mawrey raised concerns that the fraud is increasingly commonplace.
Postal voting fraud has become “easy” because of “extremely lax rules”, the electoral commissioner has said amid concerns that the practice is widespread…
“The ease of postal vote fraud and the difficulty of policing it led to such a great upsurge in personation that, in the Birmingham case, the number of false votes was virtually half of all votes recorded as having been cast for the winning candidates.”
YES or No, the big project will be the Broadway SkyTrain subway. Both Bombardier and SNC Lavalin have ben putting big pressure on the province to build this, to keep SkyTrain in production.
Rumour has it that Bombardier tried to sell the SkyTrain patents but there were no takers. Not surprising that, as proprietary transit systems are falling out of favour.
Alstom has designed an 'universal' carriage to fit many proprietary transit systems including ART, with an eye competing against Bombardier in the future on an equal standing. This has many at Bombardier worried that they will lose the advantages (the got-cha factor) of the proprietary transit system.
Translation: If Alstom undersells Bombardier, only SNC will benefit from SkyTrain construction.
They want to compel the province and TransLink to build a SkyTrain subway before the Alstom vehicle is ready in 2016.
Alstom already has a foothold in Canada, with the Ottawa LRT and with the teething problems of the hybrid Flexity trams being delivered to Toronto, Bombardier is on a razor edge with their market in Canada.
With record low turnouts for sovereign elections, our democracy's plainly in trouble: if people don't care enough to vote, why should they care about the veracity of any particular contest? Con-operatives have been peppering comment-boards with a simple, coordinated message: politicians are all the same, so what's the point in even bothering to vote? The very fact they figure such a notion might suppress enough votes to affect a Con win is disturbing enough, but trust in democracy is being eroded incrementally in other ways as well , such as the blatant deck-stacking when Gordo interfered with the BC Electoral Office (recall the “Acting” Chief had to be forced by court order to release the Anti-HST Petition results because, it seemed, they unexpectedly, and much to BC Liberal discomfiture, achieved the threshold); the HST mail-in Referendum, a suspiciously narrow margin of rejection—much narrower than would have been expected based on preceding polling which indicated a broad, cross-party antipathy to the hated tax—the veracity of which was impossible to discern (the BC Liberals stood to gain by making the race look tighter than it really was); the creeping adoption of municipal online voting across the country; the awarding of Etobicoke to the Con candidate not by a recount, but by a statistical sample of a sample of polling returns; the passing of the ridiculously named “Fair Elections Act” over only token protest; the PM who characterized his party's election funding fraud conviction as merely a “difference of opinion”; and so on. With such a record it looks unlikely the Transit Referendum results would ever be overturned solely because the ballots—coerced as they might be—were counted in secret, without scrutinization, and by biased agents of one side of the issue.
For me, the folly in all this has been neglecting to challenge transgressions from existing laws and customs, not, as many frustrated voters profess, from our single-member-plurality electoral system. For example, the unilateral appointment of the “Acting” Chief Electoral Officer should have been challenged in court because it didn't comply with the standard procedure of selecting the Chief through an all-party committee of the legislature. Also, Etobicoke should have been resolved by repeating the contest in a by-election if a winner could not be decided from original recount; and even though the award was indeed challenged in court, the fact that the plaintiff (the thwarted Liberal candidate) simply ran out of money to appeal the sampling approach used by the judge reinforces the popular misconception that it's pointless and hopeless to fight a wrong, which is thence easily conflated with the supposed pointlessness of voting.
I'm not sure that proportional representation would be any help: the above are legal questions, not electoral system ones; unscrupulous politicians will game any system if they can get away with it, regardless of how they are elected. A supreme irony—possibly taken advantage of by those who seek benefit from vote suppression—is that a growing number of supposed “concerned citizens” are lamenting there's no point in voting if it isn't pro-rep. After a single, as yet incomplete first majority mandate by an extraordinarily bad government people are ready to chuck the whole system, or drop out altogether. To be sure, no election on the horizon will be by pro-rep, and no referenda are contemplated. But dropping out is exactly what Harper wants because it turns his democratic minority into a parliamentary majority.
The Canadian electorate's getting lazy-minded—heck, in Vancouver they're ready to parse over the results of a secret vote count! It seems incredible so many either don't see anything wrong, or don't have any idea or inclination to remedy it except for a misplaced faith in pro-rep.
Mail-in ballots should be banned because fraud cannot be ruled out. Pointe finale.
On May 15, 2013 I gave some thought to whether it was possible the BC Liberals had somehow fixed the provincial election results. I concluded that they possessed three of the Ms necessary, but lacked the fourth. They had the motive, morals and money, but lacked the method.
The Yes side in this referendum may have all four.
good thing this is only a plebiscite with no legal standing or spending authority at all. Then Christy Clark can say anything she wants about the results without falling foul of the law, because that's exactly what she's going to do anyway. Whether the YES side goes down to defeat or wins an upset, Christy Clark will put her pink hard hat on and announce yet more public debt for whatever favourite project of the Mayor's Council strikes her fancy, and deliver it in her relentlessly cheery smile of political vacuity, never failing to find a moment to blame the NDP for the fast ferries once again….
This whole exercise has been about image management, and the YES side has played along in their one-oared Titanic imagining themselves accomplishing the saving of the world.
In the 19th century, Hans Christian Anderson recounted a story. Substitute “TransLink” for emperor:
Many years ago there was an Emperor so exceedingly fond of new clothes that he spent all his money on being well dressed.
…Every day many strangers came to town, and among them one day came two swindlers. They were weavers who said they could weave the most magnificent fabrics imaginable. Not only were their colours and patterns uncommonly fine, but clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was unfit for his office, or who was unusually stupid.
“Those would be just the clothes for me,” thought the Emperor… He paid the two swindlers a large sum of money to start work at once.
They set up two looms and pretended to weave, though there was nothing on the looms. All the finest silk and the purest old thread which they demanded went into their traveling bags, while they worked the empty looms far into the night.
…”Well, I'm supposed to be ready,” the Emperor said, and turned again for one last look in the mirror. “It is a remarkable fit, isn't it?” He seemed to regard his costume with the greatest interest.
The noblemen who were to carry his train stooped low and reached for the floor as if they were picking up his mantle. Then they pretended to lift and hold it high. They didn't dare admit they had nothing to hold.
…No costume the Emperor had worn before was ever such a complete success.
“But he hasn't got anything on,” a little child said.
…And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn't anything on. A child says he hasn't anything on.”
“But he hasn't got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.
The Emperor shivered, for he suspected they were right. But he thought, “This procession has got to go on.” So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all.