The NDP has asked Elections BC to investigate if election fraud has been committed in Surrey-Fleetwood after learning a campaign organizer for the Liberal party candidate in that riding, Garry Thind, allegedly solicited personal information from voters to request mail-in ballots over the internet.
Ravi Kahlon, NDP incumbent and MLA candidate for Delta North, raised the issue during a presser Wednesday morning at Hazelnut Meadows Park, at 14069 68 Ave. in Newton.
The Now-Leader has reached out to Thind and Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson for comment. Thind issued a written statement on Wednesday afternoon saying he his campaign team have been “cooperating fully” with Elections BC’s “questions regarding a supporter who improperly asked volunteers to submit vote-by-mail requests on behalf of voters.”
Kahlon said earlier that his party has asked Elections BC to look into “very serious allegations that potentially involves mail-in ballots in the middle of a pandemic.”
“I have complete faith in Elections BC to fully investigate matters,” he said. Kahlon said Thind is one of two administrators of a WhatsApp social media group called Garry Thind – Fleetwood and a message in the group, with 88 members, from Baldeep Jhand says the team’s main task is to register “as many voters as we can by ordering ballots in mail” and to identify all voters in Fleetwood. It goes on to say the campaign needs the name, date of birth, address, phone number, email address, and “one piece if identification Driver License, Health card number.
“We need to register each and every voter via internet,” the message reads. “Election BC will deliver paper via mail to registered address. I hope as a team we will be able to gather good number of voters.”
Thind said in his written statement that the “supporter in question did not have a formal role” in his campaign “and will not be involved in my campaign going forward.
“All candidates must abide by election laws,” he noted. “My campaign team and I take this matter very seriously and are working with all our volunteers and supporters to ensure they clearly understand that all voters must submit their own ballot requests personally.
“We will continue to work with Elections BC on this matter and will not comment further until their review is complete,” Thind’s statement reads.
The Victoria law firm Allevato Quail and Roy, on behalf of the BC NDP, on Tuesday Sept. 29 requested an “urgent investigation into possible violations of Section 257 –Corrupt Voting of the Elections Act in relation to a coordinated strategy to request mail-in voting packages online and gather votes by Surrey-Fleetwood BC Liberal candidate Garry Thind and his team.”
The law firm’s letter notes that the Corrupt Voting provision of the Act prohibits an individual from “obtaining a ballot in the name of another individual” (at Section 257(1)(e)). It is also an offence under Section 266 to provide false or misleading information when required to make a declaration under the Act. Violations of these provisions can result in monetary penalties, jail time, and disqualification from holding office or voting for seven years.”
“We are gravely concerned about this coordinated strategy,” the law firm’s letter reads. “It appears to involve numerous, deliberate violations of the Act, including the corrupt voting and false declaration sections. We request an immediate investigation into these circumstances.”
Kahlon on Wednesday called on the Liberals to “explain what’s going on here.”
“Mr. Wilkinson needs to clarify that he spoke to this candidate, he needs to tell the public that he thinks this is OK behaviour, and he also needs to ensure that no personal information was actually gathered by anyone in that group. He also needs to ensure that no other candidate was involved in this kind of behaviour,” Kahlon told reporters.
Kahlon said Wednesday that Elections BC, in response to the law firm’s letter, replied that “at this point they don’t have information of actual voter information being collected. They have to information that we provided to them; they will continue their investigation. I have confidence in Elections BC that they will be thorough in their investigation but there is a lot of questions that are unanswered that really Andrew Wilkinson and his candidate are the only ones that can answer at this stage.”
Thind is currently on a leave of absence as a Surrey School trustee.
Marvin Hunt, Liberal incumbent and MLA candidate for Surrey-Cloverdale, said he had no insight into the matter.
“This is the problem with volunteers trying to help people and all-of-a-sudden you cross the line because they have to do it themselves,” he said. “Once you’re in an election everything is a major issue, whether it is or not is completely irrelevant.”
Jagrup Brar, NDP incumbent and MLA candidate for Surrey-Fleetwood, said it’s a “very serious matter” and “all BC NDP candidates are concerned and I think the people in British Columbia are also concerned about these allegations.”
“I think I have full faith in Elections BC to fully investigate these matters and to ensure the integrity of this election,” he said. “I think it’s very important that the people of Fleetwood have complete trust in the system. No political party or candidate should ever, ever ask voters for their health card numbers or their social security number because that’s private information of the people. This information could be used to vote on other people’s behalf and that’s a serious, serious matter.”
“We don’t know if it did at this point in time, but that is for Mr. Wilkinson to explain to the people,” Brar said. “I’m getting a lot of phone calls from the people, and people of Fleetwood.”