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Candidate for B.C. NDP leader defends her campaign, says no rules broken

Elections B.C. said it is reviewing campaign’s activities
Anjali Appadurai has announced her intention to run for the B.C. NDP leadership. B.C. NDP

B.C. NDP leadership candidate Anjali Appadurai is defending her campaign in the face of allegations of fraudulent membership sign-ups and questions around the political involvement of an influential environmental group.

“There are legitimate questions in these complaints. And I just want to reiterate, we’ve acted in accordance with the rules,” the climate and social justice advocate said Tuesday, responding to a review by Elections B.C. and an internal investigation by the B.C. NDP.

“Part of me is disappointed that we’re not able to get into the issues right now because of the conversations around these inquiries.”

The most recent allegations centre on the actions of environmental organization Dogwood B.C., which has raised money to publish online ads and set up a phone bank to contact its supporters, encouraging them to join the NDP and elect a “climate champion” to the premier’s office.

Elections B.C. said it will review whether the activities by Dogwood constitute a political contribution, which can only be made by “eligible individuals” and are capped at $1,390. Organizations are prohibited from making political contributions.

Andrew Watson, a spokesman for the election agency, said no conclusions have been made around whether any prohibited contributions were made and he could not say when the review will wrap up.

Appadurai said she doesn’t have details about how Dogwood is conducting their campaign and has no control over third-party advocacy.

“I welcome the participation of these advocacy groups in the leadership race,” she said. “As soon as I declared my candidacy, there was a clear boundary between our campaign and any other organizations.” Kai Nagata, communications and campaigns director for Dogwood, said the organization has been in close contact with Elections B.C. for months to ensure all its actions are in compliance with the Elections Act.

He said Dogwood has not explicitly endorsed Appadurai but encouraged people to sign up as party members before the Sept. 4 deadline.

Appadurai said the complaints about her campaign are symptoms of a party establishment worried that the new NDP members signed up by the insurgent candidate eclipses sign-ups of front-runner David Eby, MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey and former attorney general.

“I think the flood of support for my candidacy has shown that people are very unhappy with the status quo,” she said.

Jas Johal, a CKNW host and former Liberal MLA, last week revealed an anonymous email from an Appadurai supporter encouraging B.C. Green party members to resign their membership, join the NDP to vote for Appadurai and then flip back to the Greens.

Appadurai said she did not know that message was being sent to Green party members and she does not condone strategically switching parties just to vote for the leader.

A complaint was also made to the party after Appadurai appeared in an Instagram Live video Sept. 4 with supporter Atiya Jaffar who offered to pay the $10 NDP membership fee for anyone who could not afford it. That would violate the Election Act prohibition against indirect political contributions.

Appadurai said Jaffar misspoke and has not paid the membership fee on anyone’s behalf.

The B.C. NDP said in a statement that its chief electoral officer, Elizabeth Cull, is investigating “allegations related to a breach of the Election Act by a declared candidate in the race, as well as numerous complaints regarding the solicitation of fraudulent sign-ups of members from other parties.”

Appadurai has not yet been approved by the party as an official candidate, which happens after the candidate submits their leadership papers and pays the entire $40,000 entry fee, the deadline for which is Oct. 19.

Eby has been officially approved as a candidate.

Cull has the power to reject a potential candidate.

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