Loren Duncan is taking his concerns around last week’s municipal election to the province.
Duncan unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Alison Nicholson in a tight race in the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s Area E (Sahtlam/Glenora/Cowichan Station).
But he claims that during the election campaign, Nicholson used lists of voters’ emails that she accumulated at district functions and meetings while she served as a director to contact the voters and provide information about her campaign.
Duncan said the voters were told at the time they provided their contact information that it would be used specifically to provide them with periodic news and community updates.
He said the province’s Personal Information and Protection of Privacy statutes clearly states that candidates in an election can’t use personal contact information for any purpose outside of what it was solicited for, and it gave Nicholson an unfair advantage in the campaign.
“All these lists actually belong to the CVRD and candidates can’t own them, even if they collected them themselves,” he said.
“This undermines democracy and is a big deal. The province has to step in and deal with this bad behaviour.”
Nicholson acknowledged that she did develop lists of people’s emails in her electoral area after asking them if they were interested in keeping informed of things of interest in the community.
“I managed the lists myself and used my own email address,” she said.
“I was aware that the CVRD had set up email lists for specific projects that can’t be used by directors and I’m OK with that. I don’t think I was in violation of any statutes, but this issue does flag the need for clearer protocols. It’s a grey area.”
Nicholson said she has her own complaints about Duncan during the campaign.
“He misrepresented my positions several times and made many disparaging remarks to my supporters,” she said.
“It divided the community and I’m very upset about that.”
Duncan took his concerns to the CVRD, but the district’s CAO Brian Carruthers said the district doesn’t investigate the conduct of candidates in association with a municipal election.
“I have recommended that if he has a concern with Alison Nicholson’s use of email addresses in relation to the election process, that he direct his concerns to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner or Elections BC,” Carruthers said.
Duncan said he’s in the process of taking his complaint to the Freedom Of Information and Protection of Privacy Commission.
“I don’t know how far I’m willing to go with this, and taking it to the courts is not cheap,” he said.
Duncan has to make his submission to the commission within 30 days of the election for it to be considered.