Dear Commissioners, there is serious “astroturfing” going on in the Chilliwack-Hope and Fraser-Nicola constituencies. Please excuse me if you are already familiar with the terminology. If you are not, then please allow me this opportunity to familiarize you with it.
Wikipedia, the online dictionary, defines “astroturfing” as:
“Astroturfing is the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization (e.g., political, advertising, religious or public relations to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participant(s)….The implication behind the use of the term is that there are no "true" or "natural" grassroots, but rather "fake" or "artificial" support…These groups typically present themselves as serving the public interest, while actually working on behalf of a corporate or political sponsor.”
In the case of Chilliwack-Hope, the “political sponsor” of this deceptive practice is none other than Liberal MLA Laurie Throness. Mr. Throness and his publicly-funded MLA office are actively involved in astroturfing in an effort to deceive the members of the BC Electoral Boundaries Re-Distribution Commission about the changes proposed in the Preliminary Report. Laurie Throness is blatantly misusing public funds from his MLA Office for partisan purposes to sponsor a fake “petition” by taking out an ad in the Hope Standard newspaper dated May 14, 2015, and repeated on May 21, 2015. The ad openly attacks the Commission and its recommendations for changes to the electoral boundaries in and around the community of Hope. Throness is asking people to come to a so-called “Open House” to sign a petition against the Commission’s changes for Hope.
The ad (attached) falls outside the eligible expenses for the MLA Constituency Allowance due to its partisan nature. As outlined in the Member’s Guide, using constituency allowance funds for advertising is “restricted to outlining constituency office activities, and the role played by the Member in the legislative process”. In this ad, MLA Throness is not expressing or representing the legitimate views of his constituents, but instead is misusing his constituency allowance in an explicit effort to urge constituents to oppose the recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission, an independent body established by the Legislative Assembly.
Wikipedia also states:
“Astroturfing is a form of propaganda whose techniques usually consist of a few people attempting to give the impression that mass numbers of enthusiasts advocate some specific cause.”
Again, this activity is not grassroots rather it is being carried out by a small group of people with vested interests. Liberal MLAs Laurie Throness and Jackie Tegart of Fraser-Nicola and their staff are actively promoting and collecting signatures for this petition in both constituencies. This fake petition and any signatures collected are contaminated by self-interest and partisan interference. I urge the Commission to nullify, void and throw this tainted petition out.
The Commission has done an excellent job proposing the necessary changes in the Preliminary Report. Please do not let any partisan interference get in the way of your independent work. I fully support your report.