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Cowichan Works fined $750 by Elections BC for campaign advertising violation

Mailing of 14,921 cards may have had ‘large impact in the Cowichan area’

Cowichan Works has been fined $750 by Elections BC for “failure to register before sponsoring election advertising,” a contravention of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA).

"The penalty against Cowichan Works is the largest penalty issued to date for the 2022 General Local Elections,” said Elections BC.

In a letter dated Jan. 24 to Cowichan Works chair Brian Danyliw (a realtor with Sotheby’s) and director Patrick Hrushowy, Elections BC says it received a complaint on Aug. 5, 2022, that Cowichan Works was conducting election advertising without being registered as required under LECFA.

“Elections BC reviewed the complaint and Cowichan Works’ website, and determined that the activities at the time did not meet the definition of sponsored election advertising in LECFA,” writes Adam Barnes, director of investigations.

“Elections BC was concerned that Cowichan Works may have intended to conduct sponsored election advertising based on the information that was available on its website.

“The website noted that Cowichan Works was ‘identifying and encouraging quality candidates who align with our values and share our vision to run for election.’”

Barnes says that Elections BC emailed Cowichan Works on Aug. 8 to indicate the organization “may need to register as a third party sponsor if it intends to conduct sponsored election advertising….”

Elections BC received a letter from Danyliw on Aug. 19 indicating Cowichan Works’ “primary goal is to encourage residents to take note of the upcoming election and for them to understand the importance of voting. The letter noted that Cowichan Works was not positioning itself to be a third party sponsor for any candidates.”

On August 31, Cowichan Works deposited 14,921 cards at the Duncan main post office and paid for neighbourhood mail delivery in the area, Elections BC says its letter.

The cards were branded as coming from Cowichan Works,” and included the organization’s website address, an email address and stated: “local politicians are out of touch, putting Cowichan in crisis; Cowichan needs change; Be part of the change.”

On September 7 Elections BC told Cowichan Works that the cards are “considered to be sponsored election advertising, and that Cowichan Works was required to register as a third party sponsor.”

Cowichan Works spent $3,492.30 to print and distribute the cards, according to invoices.

Says Barnes: “While the advertisements did not specify which local politicians were “out of touch”, they were clearly opposed to the existing council members in the region, and they were sponsored in that Cowichan Works paid to print and distribute the ads.

“Cowichan Works distributed the cards during the pre-campaign period, and was not a registered third party advertiser prior to distribution” as required.

“The potential reach of the ad distribution was significant - 14,921 cards could have a large impact in the Cowichan area….”

The municipal election occurred Oct. 15.

Cowichan Works registered as a third party sponsor on Dec. 22 at the request of Elections BC. Had it not, the fine could have been $1,000 to $3,000.

Cowichan Works director Hrushowy has served as a lobbyist and/or communications spokesman for industry. He finished third-to-last among 14 candidates for councillor in North Cowichan in 2018 — and also failed in an attempt to amalgamate Duncan and North Cowichan.

Cowichan Works has said, in part, it is “dedicated to protecting personal land rights….” reported Sept. 9 that Cowichan Works was under review by Elections BC.

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— Larry Pynn, Jan. 25, 2023


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