Was the 2013 Election in British Columbia Rigged?
By Walt McGinnis
It has been a year since the provincial election in British Columbia and the fog is slowly lifting off well-kept secrets regarding what caused the Adrian Dix campaign to fall apart and astonishingly how he seemed to be the last guy to realize it. This story is not about the injustice of NDP losing, because one could argue that they are no better than the Liberals, rather it is about the terrible reality that powerful people and public relations firms can change election outcomes and governments, and that the citizens of Canada may have lost their power to stop them. (1)(2)
This is a scenario to consider. With the Tar-sands pipelines not built and the Liquid Natural Gas development still in its unsure infancy as well as several scandals like the BC Rail give away, the BC Hydro financial catastrophe on top of the smart meter fiasco all to be kept under control, the election results could not be left to chance. The Liberals looked like the best bet so they were supported by Industry and their lobbyists. And what better way to steer the outcome of an election than to manage both sides?
Of all the irregularities in the campaign the oddest situation was allowing Brian Topp to continue as Dix’s campaign manager. Topp was a partner in a public relations firm that had two other partners working for the Liberals.
It appears the early NDP lead was invented by corporate funded pollsters which when reported in the corporate funded media created apathy and lower voter turnout specifically amongst soft NDP supporters, then a series of what has been called mistakes in the NDP campaign caused voter support to further plummet, and strangely this vital information was kept from the leader of the NDP and the party until it was too late to salvage the election.
Topp took over the NDP campaign, mismanaged his advertising, mismanaged his image, mismanaged his campaign strategy by not criticizing the Liberals in key areas, isolated and ignored grassroots activists on key issues, took contradictory and vague positions on BC Hydro and other issues and basically alienated their base support. Information Hit-men
Who are these Wise Guys?
How improbable is it for a new PR firm, Kool Topp and Guy, to materialize out of nowhere and play a major role in both campaigns.
Topp was a professional politician; he came second after Thomas Mulcair in the federal NDP leadership race and was a seasoned campaign manager. Premier of British Columbia Christie Clark, was a partner in a lobbying firm that had at one time worked for Enbridge. This appeared to have ended when she became Premier. She later raised eyebrows by appointing Ken Boessenkool, also a former Enbridge lobbyist and advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, as her chief of staff in 2012. Boessenkool resigned after unsubstantiated claims were laid against him regarding improprieties involving a staff member. Strangely he resurfaced soon after as a partner in Kool, Topp and Guy. Don Guy is a longtime Liberal strategist.
It appears that in fact the NDP were never 20 points ahead in the polls as the public opinion polls suggested.Apparently Liberal insider polls showed that they were always very close to the NDP and often in the lead. The public never heard about that.
It takes more than a few front men to trick a whole province into believing that a political party is ahead in the polls and is going to win. You would need a comprehensive approach with not only both political campaigns under control, you would also need the cooperation of the public opinion pollsters, and collaboration by the corporate media. In order to have all that you need a massive budget with hundreds of workers. You would need a firm like Hill and Knowlton to coordinate the operation.
Kevin Logan writting in The Common Sense Canadian points out the close relationship between Hill and Knowlton representatives and several NDP and Liberal players on both sides of the election battle. Hill and Knowlton is a wing of the world’s largest lobby group WPP, who employ 162,000 people in 3000 offices across 110 countries.
It appears Hill and Knowlton wrote the NDP election platform. No one else will take the credit. It is their job to make us believe that the NDP came up with all these great ideas. On the other hand if anyone wanted to discredit the NDP, Hill and Knowlton were perfect for that job also.
Let’s not forget Hill and Knowlton, part of the world’s largest PR firm, was the firm that concocted the Kuwaiti incubator baby hoax, , the Pearl Harbor event that swayed US public opinion to support the US invasion of Iraq. Millions of innocent people suffered and died as a result. The mainstream business oriented media however would rather talk about bringing democracy and freedom to Iraq.
Hill and Knowlton had the skills and resources to provide a plausible story to the media that then turned around and convinced hundreds of millions of people that there were hundreds of Kuwaiti babies ripped out of their incubators by Iraqi soldiers and left to die lying on the hospital floors. The American government then said the only way we can help out is to launch Operation Desert Storm and the first Gulf War began. Millions of people suffered and died as a result. If they could get away with that whopper, it would not be a stretch to consider the possibility that they could fix a Canadian provincial election.
Political handlers, public relations firms and revolving doors
Brad Lavigne, Jim Rutkowski at Hill-Knowlton and Marcella Munro with Earnscliffe Strategy Group are former BC NDP employees who are now representing PR Firms. Sean Holman writes in the Huffington Post: “We don’t know what the specific roles and decisions Anne McGrath and Brad Lavigne played and made during the 2013 provincial election. The same could be said for fellow insiders Marcella Munro and Jim Rutkowski.”
They used to work for the NDP, now they work for massive corporations. What are they doing inside an NDP election campaign?
Brad Lavigne – Prior to joining Hill-Knowlton in 2013, Brad was the chief architect and national campaign director for the New Democratic Party’s 2011 historical breakthrough that elected it to the official opposition. He then served as principal secretary to the Hon. Jack Layton and later Nycole Turmel. Brad also served as an advisor to two premiers in his native province of British Columbia.
Jim Rutkowski – former NDP Special Assistant to the Minister of Health, Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Small Business Tourism and Culture, and Ministerial Assistant to the Minister of Finance and Attorney General.” He is now registered to lobby on behalf of the China National Offshore Oil Company, the German drug company Bayer Inc. and Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Inc. His clients have also included the accounting firm Deloitte, the Vancouver International Airport Authority, Port Metro Vancouver, Loblaw Companies Ltd. and the Association of Professional Engineers and Geo-scientists of B.C.
Marcella Munro – formally chief strategist and the main media contact for Mike Farnsworth’s leadership bid. As a lobbyist her clients have included, according to the province’s registry of lobbyists, drug makers Eli Lilly, Glaxo Smith Kline and Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., as well as LifeLabs, McDonald’s restaurants and the company that owns the Tim Horton’s dough nut shop brand. The Tyee – Who’s Lobbying the NDP.
Sihota chooses Topp for Campaign Manager .
The 2013 election campaign began on Feb 4th with the media reporting that the president of the party, Moe Sihota had chosen Brian Topp, an outsider of BC politics to be Adrian Dix’s campaign manager. It seems strange that Sihota, Zirnhelt and O’Brien had the authority to make such a huge decision. Where were all the NDP wizards and gurus when that decision was made? What did Topp have that campaign managers from BC did not have? Did they have any choice in the matter… really? No matter what the answers this one decision set in motion a chain of events that not only stole the election away from the people, it will have political reverberations for years to come and most of it will be bad. Sihota and O’Brien resigned Nov 2013.
The artful lie that the PR firms propagated was the NDP had a big lead and blew it with a bad campaign, topping it all off with their opposition to the Kinder Morgan pipeline. In fact the NDP were never ahead especially in swing ridings. The were beaten by thousands of votes in those ridings. It was not even close. But this was the explanation the PR firms used to explain the biggest swing in votes in the history of our province. The NDP were never ahead. Dix did not know because Topp did no internal polling.
The Sept 24, 2013, article in the Tyee Bill Tieleman, describes how Dix made several terrible and fatal mistakes that blew the election. He does not go near the possibility that Dix’s defeat was carefully planned. Tieleman asks why the NDP campaign team did not order polling in key swing ridings.“It was Topp who astonishingly rejected the mainstay of modern political campaigns: polling key swing ridings daily during the election to determine trends.”“Since then I’ve learned the NDP undertook significant swing riding polling during the 2009, 2005 and even the disastrous 2001 election campaigns — but not in 2013.”
“Meanwhile, the Liberals were doing daily tracking polls in 25 key ridings, giving them instant feedback on messaging, NDP vulnerability and where to allocate resources.”
Almost as astonishing as the election result, was that it appeared Adrian Dix knew nothing about the plummeting support for the NDP. Strangely, for almost the first time in a modern election campaigns, a major contender decided not to do polling in swing ridings. There are no clear answers as to why the NDP did no polling. It looks like it cost them the election.
Public opinion polls and manipulation of voter behavior
It appears the massive lead for the NDP in the months before the campaign was created mostly by public opinion polls of dubious integrity. The polling during the campaign saw the lead shrinking but nothing near the actual numbers. Apparently all the pollsters were making fundamental mistakes simultaneously. One has to wonder, could all the pollsters get it so wrong just by coincidence, as they claim? Angus Reid made an explanation of their mistakes that stretches their credibility. They claim they did not attribute the replies to their surveys in a manner that would translate to actual votes. One could ask, what is the point of polling then? Also there were no explanations as why the NDP made a late campaign switch in pollsters . Did the NDP start to suspect they were being given flawed data to by their own pollster? It sure looks like it.
Why did you keep punching yourself Adrian while refusing to take a swing at your opponent?
For a least a year before the election Dix kept his campaign positive and did not drag up all the muck of Liberal corruption. What PR guru advised him to do that? Lord knows they had lots of muck to work with and the electorate had a right to hear the truth especially since the corporate media was saying almost nothing. It is one thing to provide a positive message and alternatives, it is another to remain silent while your political opponents are engaged in criminal activity.
Could there have been deals made on what political skeletons that were to be remain buried? Dix’s decision not to mention several Liberal scandals defies logic if his handlers wanted him to win. One the other hand we were told daily just how crooked Dix was, due to the deep pockets of his enemies not officially connected to the Liberals. They spent millions on US style attack ads on TV.
Consequently the public just could not warm up to Adrian Dix and his TV ads only made the situation worse. Topp chose Toronto ad agency Open to produce the BC NDP’s lackluster election ads in which Dix looked stiff and uncomfortable. Dix was stiff and uncomfortable on stage but it was nothing a little soft light and sweet music could not handle. Instead he looked like Richard Nixon declaring I am not a criminal, over and over.
Perhaps we will never know for sure happened in the NDP 2013 election campaign in British Columbia. Everyone knows something was amiss but few NDP loyalists will step forward and demand answers from their leaders. More importantly it is not just the NDP ,we are all losers if we can not have free and fair elections.
The result is we now have another Liberal government with very little opposition to several huge developments that will have irreparable impacts on our environment and our economy for decades to come. The lesson for the rest of us is to not let this happen again. Let’s exercise our power as citizens and fight to keep our politicians honest and our elections fair.
(1) The smartest guys were not in the room
There was a sense that something was amiss about the Dix campaign when in early March 2013 Adrian was trotted out to a reception at the BC Teachers Federation AGM in Vancouver. It was several weeks before the election. He had more handlers around him than Mohamad Ali. Dix intellectual prowess was vaunted and he was introduced as being so brilliant and that he really was the “smartest guy in the room”. It seemed odd to introduce him this way given the Enron connections to this phrase, and especially in this room where he seemed to have so few real friends amongst the teachers. It seemed something was wrong but it was hard to put a finger on it.
Over the next several weeks Adrian Dix’s stunning election defeat unfolded. Over the following several months more and more questions arose over what had really happened . Was this Deja vu all over again? This looked much like the Kenneth Lay story, the fall guy in the Enron tale, from ten years earlier. Both Lay and Dix were often described by their foes as being obsessively ambitious and willing to bend the rules to get ahead. These vices may have left them both easily manipulated and controlled. It appears both were puppets for what was really a profit and control corporate agenda.
Adrian played the role of a brilliant but fatally flawed man, taking a mighty fall, in much the same manner as what Lay was depicted in the movie, The Smartest Guys in the Room. But we now know the smartest guys were not in the room, they were nowhere to be found. They were hiding in the board room of the accounting and PR firm, Arthur Anderson and Associates, one of the largest public relations firms in the world and the inventors of Enron bookkeeping. While Kenneth Lay went to jail, others waltzed away with hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves and their friends. When Dix lost the election hundreds of millions of dollars in future profits were secured for several very powerful corporations.
(2)The election results were strange to say the least.
It was reported as the election with the largest spread between pollster predictions and actual votes cast in the history of BC politics. It was also an historic collapse of support for the NDP in a few weeks going from a commanding lead at the start of the campaign to a surprising defeat on Election Day. During the campaign public opinion polls showed the NDP well ahead and many voters possibly thought, I cannot stand the Liberals and the NDP are a shoo-in, so I will not bother to vote at all. But the polls were drastically wrong and the NDP were not ahead.
These facts alone have caused the red flags a waving for those concerned about the honesty of public opinion polling, the honesty of the corporate media, and moreover about our inability to hold free and fair elections. To put this situation into context there has been a disturbing trend all over the so called democratic world where election processes have been tampered with. The robo-calling federal Conservatives and the weird polling results in the last Alberta election are just two examples of this.