A “credible third party” should be hired to investigate allegations of irregularities in BC Liberal party memberships, according to the BC NDP.

Vancouver—Hastings MLA Niki Sharma called it “deeply troubling” that five of the seven wannabe Liberal leaders have made “such serious allegations” about how new members were signed up.

Late last week, The Breaker reported that campaign managers for Michael Lee, Renee Merrifield, Ellis Ross, Gavin Dew and Stan Sipos had written to the party’s leadership committee, saying they are “collectively concerned about the potential for voter fraud, the current audit process, and the risk of catastrophic reputational damage to the party.”

In mid-December, the lists of memberships sold by each campaign were compiled and shared with their rivals’ teams. The letter’s five signatories claim to have found irregularities with thousands of the signups on the shared lists, including multiple members who share the same phone number or email address, and others using out-of-province or business addresses.

“This casts a shadow on the entire leadership campaign and the democratic process,” Sharma said in a statement yesterday. “I urge the BC Liberal Party to take these allegations seriously.”

Efforts are underway to verify 3,025 memberships “flagged for further follow-up,” according to a statement from the Liberal party’s leadership committee. That’s about seven per cent of the party’s current membership roster.

“The criteria used to identify memberships for further review is based on a number of objective measures,” said committee co-chairs Colin Hansen and Roxanne Helme. “It does not use any form of demographic characteristics to identify individuals for audit.”

Anonymized or multiple entry IP addresses, missing phone numbers or email addresses, and “bulk use of contact information, such as an email or a phone number” are among the criteria that could prompt the review of a membership, per the statement.

Falcon defends membership drive as ex-MLA Johal tells other contenders to ‘shut up now’

Meanwhile, Liberal leadership hopeful Kevin Falcon took to Twitter yesterday to defend his campaign’s membership efforts.

“I’ve dedicated over 20 years of my life proudly working in the Asian/South Asian communities and will not tolerate those members being singled out to prove their membership adequacy,” Falcon, the former MLA for Surrey—Cloverdale, tweeted.

The comment came in response to a Twitter thread from former Liberal MLA-turned radio talk show host Jas Johal, who said the leadership candidates who signed the recent letter have “thrown POC under the bus.”

“As a person of South Asian descent, I think the BC Liberals should do minority communities a favour and just shut up now.”

Johal claimed the five signatories have “realized Falcon and co have signed up around 60 per cent of the new members,” about 50 per cent of them South Asian and 20 per cent of them Chinese. Their letter is proof they are now “panicking,” he said.

Skeena MLA and leadership contender Ross professed support for “everything” Falcon said but claimed “no one is singling out any group.”

“We are singling out campaign teams that don’t follow the rules. And we won’t stop,” Ross tweeted.

Lee, the MLA for Vancouver—Langara who is also in the race, called on each leadership campaign and the Liberal Party to ensure the validity of all memberships and the integrity of the upcoming leadership vote. “As a leadership candidate, I’m proud to have recruited so many diverse supporters to our party to join Team Michael and commend all leadership teams for their efforts to grow our political movement,” he said.

“Nobody wins from fighting over the legitimacy of members every leadership cycle,” opined fellow candidate Dew, who said he would ask Elections BC “to play a neutral role in administering future leadership voting processes including voter verification” if chosen as the party’s next leader.