Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Bill Tieleman - watch this space for new content soon!

A message from Bill Tieleman 

Hello friends - as you can see here on my Bill Tieleman blog, there have been no new posts since I decided to run for city councillor in the October 2022 Vancouver civic election. 

I am happy to report that I am doing very well, continuing in my 25th year as President of West Star Communications, my business that provides strategy, communications and government relations services to a wide variety of clients - including labour, business, not-for-profits and indigenous organizations.

Recently my friend Mike Smyth of CKNW Radio asked me to fill in for another friend, Global TV's Keith Baldrey, for a discussion of current BC, municipal and federal politics, followed by phone-in callers every Friday morning at 10:05 a.m.  Please tune in!
I have been doing other political commentary with various media as well in the past year and I intend to have things to say here on a more regular basis soon!
Meanwhile, do have a look around at my many past columns in The Tyee and the late, lamented 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper and other material here - and thanks for dropping by!  

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Bill Tieleman announces candidacy for TEAM For A Livable Vancouver City Council nomination

Bill Tieleman says soul of Vancouver is at stake in critical municipal election on October 15 

It's time for a change at Vancouver City Hall and Mayor Kennedy Stewart and this council have to go, Tieleman says

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                               Saturday June 4, 2022

VANCOUVER – Communications, strategy and political consultant Bill Tieleman announced today he is seeking nomination as a Vancouver City Council candidate with the TEAM For A Livable Vancouver party, led by Mayoral Candidate Colleen Hardwick.

“Vancouver citizens deserve better and on October 15 they can vote for a new TEAM City Council that will make affordable housing, public safety and city services and livability the priority, led by experienced City Councillor Colleen Hardwick as Mayor,” Tieleman says.

“Despite city tax increases above inflation, public safety is at risk, with four stranger attacks a day in Vancouver – and our streets are crumbling in disrepair – it’s time for a change at City Hall and Mayor Kennedy Stewart and this council has to go,” Tieleman said.

“The soul of Vancouver is literally at stake in this critical election, with the Broadway Plan putting over 1,000 high-rise towers across 500 blocks of our city and demovicting thousands of renters from their affordable low-rise apartments,” he added. 

“The choice for Vancouver voters will be clear – four parties that all support the Broadway Plan’s 500 blocks of rental apartment demolition for replacement with two towers of up to 40-storeys per block – or TEAM For A Livable Vancouver – that stands for ensuring neighbourhoods across the city have a voice that will be heard at City Council.”

“But whether its towers from Clark Drive to Vine Street and from 16th Avenue to False Creek or a 39-story tower at Broadway and Granville or towers at Commercial Drive and East Broadway or 38-storey luxury high-rise towers on the Jericho Lands – one thing is clear about Mayor Kennedy Stewart and his Forward Together party or the NPA, COPE, Green and ABC party City Councillors – they all want enormous towers all over the city – TEAM does not,” Tieleman said.  

“TEAM wants affordable housing for diverse requirements that meets the needs of neighbourhoods. There couldn’t be a clearer choice possible in this election.”                                                                                                   

“Councillor Colleen Hardwick has consistently stood up for Vancouver residents and offered common sense alternatives that have been sadly lacking – so I’m pleased to work hard to see her become Mayor with a TEAM majority on Council for a better city,” he said.

Hardwick welcomed Tieleman’s candidacy for a TEAM nomination, saying he brings experience working with all levels of government, not-for-profit groups, labour unions, businesses and indigenous organizations.

“Bill Tieleman is one of the most respected strategists and communicators in the province and has a wide wealth of experience to bring to City Council – Bill would be a welcome replacement as we face enormous challenges getting Vancouver back on track again,” Hardwick said.

TEAM For A Livable Vancouver will hold its nominating meeting for Council candidates on June 11 at 2 p.m. 

For more information on TEAM:  Website:


Bill Tieleman is one of BC’s best-known political strategists and campaigners; running his strategy and communications consulting firm – West Star Communications – since 1998.

Bill is a very successful campaigner – playing leading roles in winning four consecutive BC binding referenda – as president of the opponent group that defeated Proportional Representation in 2018 with a 61% win, following twice defeating pro-rep in 2005 and 2009; and as Strategist for Fight HST, the Harmonized Sales Tax was eliminated in a 2011 binding referendum, after BC’s only successful Citizens Initiative Petition across the province.

Bill served as Communications Director to then-BC NDP Premier Glen Clark in his upset 1996 election victory and also as BC Federation of Labour Communications Director and Assistant to then-President Ken Georgetti.  For over 16 years Bill Tieleman wrote a weekly politics column in 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper, The Tyee online magazine and the Georgia Straight newspaper; he does regular political commentary on television, radio, online and in print.

Bill provides strategy, communications and government relations advice to a wide range of clients, including labour, business, indigenous, environmental and not-for-profit organizations.


Monday, September 21, 2020

"BC Premier John Horgan should absolutely call an election!"

BC Premier John Horgan & Bill Tieleman at swearing in ceremony in 2017.

Why BC NDP Premier John Horgan was absolutely right to call a BC election for Saturday October 24!

By Bill Tieleman  

[These are comments I made to The Tyee before BC NDP Premier John Horgan announced his decision to call a provincial election on Monday for Saturday October 24.  I am very pleased that the Premier has asked British Columbians for a mandate to continue to govern.  Others The Tyee interviewed didn't all agree with me!  See their full article here.]

Premier John Horgan should absolutely call an election - because with COVID-19 creating both an unprecedented health and economic crisis, British Columbians deserve to have a government with a strong mandate to implement its plans.  

It’s up to voters to decide whether it should be the BC NDP, the BC Liberals or the BC Greens in charge - whenever an election is called, it’s voters who decide, not politicians or parties. 

The BC NDP government can and will be judged on their response to this devastating pandemic;  the other parties will put forward their criticisms and plans and British Columbians will democratically choose which is better.

The election will be conducted safely, with minimal in person contact, few public events and socially distanced voting.  BC has much successful experience with binding mail referenda - my involvement with both the 2018 Proportional Representation vote and the Harmonized Sales Tax ballot showed me that mail voting is secure, with good participation and lower costs than in person polling stations on a single day.  It’s for those reasons that Washington state and other jurisdictions conduct all their ballots by mail.

This election will Also be a referendum Dash on which party I can best deal with COVID-19 and its aftermath. That place is the BC NDP in a good position thanks to Health Minister Adrian Dix putting his faith in medical science and due to Premier John Horgan’s strong leadership. 

BC Liberal opposition leader Andrew Wilkinson faces a difficult challenge overcoming some of his early leadership mistakes and lack of public or media attention to his party.  After 16 years in power, the BC Liberals seem to have run out of innovative ideas but an election is their best opportunity to put forward a new vision. 

Internal differences are also a significant factor, with the possibility of a post election political divorce between the federal Conservative and federal Liberal wings of the party.

The BC Greens have even more difficulties than the BC Liberals with the loss of former leader Andrew Weaver and his ongoing criticism of his former party, which is now led by Sonia Furstenau.  Weaver’s endorsement of John Horgan continuing as premier adds significantly to their woes.

All in all this promises to be one of the most unusual elections British Columbia has ever seen, with the results potentially determining the political futures of all parties for the next decade.

Bill Tieleman has served as Communications Director in the office of former BC NDP Premier Glen Clark and has won four consecutive binding provincial referenda, serving as President of NO BC Proportional Representation in the 2018 referendum, President of NO BC STV in the 2009 and 2005 referenda and as Strategist for NO BC HST in the 2011 referendum. He has also worked on many winning provincial, federal and municipal campaigns, nominations and leadership campaigns.   


Sunday, October 20, 2019

The Rubik's Cube Canadian Election of 2019 - Infinite Combinations and Extremely Frustrating!

Rubik's Cube - an appropriate metaphor for Election 2019!  
The Rubik's Cube Canadian Election of 2019 - With Infinite Combinations and Extremely Frustrating! 

By Bill Tieleman 

It's finally almost over!  This Rubik's Cube of a Canadian election 2019 has surely been one of the most frustrating and hardest to predict due to its infinite possible combinations of party results.

The results on Monday night appear likely to leave at least a few possible combinations for the two largest parties to form a temporary and shaky government.  

There is much negative and not much positive to be said for both possibilities in many ways but likely the one thing we can count on is another election within 18 months to two years.

Looking at the latest polls, it seems the two most likely possibilities are a Liberal minority  government backed by New Democratic Party support to get to the 170 seats needed for a majority vote on confidence matters -  or a Conservative minority, backed when crucial by the Bloc Québécois.

There still remains two outlier results: a Liberal or Conservative majority government that surprises all pollsters - but from the beginning of this desultory campaign that has seemed highly unlikely - and no polling even briefly indicated that was possible.

I have grave doubts about so-called "aggregator polls" that take all polling firms' results and combine them in an attempt to mitigate any rogue polls and get a much larger sample with presumably more accurate results.  The problem is that mixing pollsters with long track records with good accuracy and those who often can't hit the broad side of a barn door means the overall averages are misleading.

I prefer Ipsos results, along with the Angus Reid Institute and a few others.  The latest Ipsos Global News poll on Sunday October 20 shows these numbers: 

Ipsos polling results October 2019 for Global News
It's important to note that according to Ipsos, the Bloc Quebecois is at 29% in Quebec, the only province where it is contesting seats - all 78 of them.  That means it will send a large contingent of separatists to Parliament for the first time in many elections.  

And the Bloc Quebecois is an untouchable partner for any party to officially align with, though the Bloc and the Conservatives may work out a non-deal deal after the election.  The Liberals might also work that angle if necessary but they likely hope for a deal with the NDP - if their numbers add up.  

Lastly, British Columbia may - or may not - determine who will likely form the next government. Our 42 seats are tightly contested in mostly 3-way races between the NDP, Conservatives and Liberals, with the Greens trying to expand their two seats on Vancouver Island but not contending anywhere else in BC.

While our provincial ego always hopes the rest of the country stays up late watching our results roll in to find out who won, that usually hasn't happened.  But with a tight race in many BC ridings, hope springs eternal!  Let the easterners be sleepy Tuesday morning! 

The Biggest Losers and Winners?

The biggest loser has yet to be decided but both Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Conservative leader Andrew Scheer are also neck and neck for that unwelcome honour.

Trudeau should have had it in the bag from the start but bungled it.  

Unable to contain the self-inflicted damage of the SNC-Lavalin scandal and unwilling or unable to keep Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould and Treasury Board President Jane Philpott in his cabinet and caucus when it was critical, Trudeau was already tarnished before the blackface incidents made him an international embarrassment as well.
Justin Trudeau at "Arabian Nights" event at private school event in 2001
Trudeau's future depends on his keeping the job of Prime Minister in a minority government - and even then it is clouded in the longer term.

The biggest winner appears clear - NDP leader Jagmeet Singh has run a phenomenal campaign and is the only national leader to have a wildly positive approval rating in poll after poll, while his party has steadily climbed in popularity. 

Singh's performance in two English language leaders debates was superb, coming across as the most genuine, relatable and relaxed of all of them - and Canadians reacted with increased support for the NDP.

Singh also dealt with a racist encounter on camera in Montreal with poise and true leadership in difficult circumstances, winning plaudits even from his political opponents. 
Jagmeet Singh on Tik Tok with over 2 million views!
And he has proven a social media phenomenon, getting followed by pop star Rihanna on Instagram and most recently mastering Tik Tok while other leaders are left in the dust by comparison!

But Singh also has to account for the two years since he became leader when the party's polling pancaked, it's finances fizzled and expectations dropped so precipitously low that at campaign start many speculated on whether or not the NDP could maintain official party status with 12 MPs elected. 

Things improved very dramatically after Singh won his Burnaby South seat in a by election and when the campaign drew national attention to his strong abilities.  But ironically, if the NDP gets 30 or more seats it may be regarded as a huge success for Singh - but that would be less than the 44 seats won in 2015 under the unlamented leadership of Tom Mulcair, who saw 51 seats disappear from the 2011 election tally under the late Jack Layton.  

However, it Singh meets or exceeds 44 seats he will be guaranteed a hero's welcome indefinitely by NDP troops. 

In the event of a Liberal minority with NDP support there will be no likelihood of either Trudeau or Singh losing their jobs as leaders, even if one or both parties lose seats. 

Scheer, on the other hand, is much more likely to lose his job unless he can form a minority government himself. For the Conservatives this has always been a "majority or bust" campaign, as they had little hope of winning the support of the NDP in a minority situation even before Singh publicly and repeatedly ruled that out.  

That only leaves the Bloc Quebecois as a likely possible partner of sorts - and that relationship would have the Facebook description of "It's complicated"!   But for Trudeau, should "Scheer Madness" prevail, his leadership may well be over. 

And of course the Bloc Quebec-wha? and leader Yves-Francois Blanchet are almost guaranteed to be big winners, having come back from the almost dead to likely win 20 to 30 or even more seats.  Blanchet will be laughing all the way to the separation referendum!

The other biggest loser could well be Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who for the third successive election in a row has predicted a "breakthrough" nationally for her party.  

After the by-election win of Paul Manly in Nanaimo-Ladysmith earlier this year in a formerly NDP seat, May and her party were exuberant.  
Tieleman Twitter account exposed a few flaky Green candidates
But the campaign started badly and faded further in the stretch, with a string of flaky and offensive candidates exposed online by myself and others for everything from believing 9/11 was an "inside job" to that the 1969 moon landing was faked to Islamophobic comments found on social media by four Quebec candidates.  

Some of those Greens became non-candidates and others profusely apologized but the damage was done - the Greens were "not as advertised" to many voters and their polling numbers tanked.  Now they hold out hope to possibly pick up a few more seats on Vancouver Island but seem to have little chance anywhere else.

So one of the least interesting election campaigns in recent political history will end with possibly the most interesting results and consequences for Canada since the 1970s.

This is one Rubik's Cube election that will take a long time and a lot of aggravation to puzzle out.    


Thursday, February 28, 2019

Tasting at the Vancouver International Wine Festival? “Kiss - Don’t Spit!” is my strong advice

NOT cool! Kiss - Don't Spit! 
“Kiss Don’t Spit!”  

 It’s actually not hip to spit in my book! 

So that's my contrarian advice to those attending the Vancouver International Wine Festival Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening - and Saturday afternoon - for the International Festival Tastings.

Most wine experts will tell novices to "spit" the wine after nosing the bouquet in the glass and sipping it into your mouth and swirling it around - but I strongly disagree.

After all, there's a reason I'm called The Wine Barbarian! 

The experts' reasoning makes some sense - you can taste far more wines without getting intoxicated by the alcohol content if it doesn't go down your throat and into your stomach.  

And those in the wine trade often have to taste dozen and dozens if not hundreds of wines in a day - it's not possible to do that and not have your liver end up like foie gras within weeks!

But you - the wine consumer - are not an expert nor are you tasting hundreds of glasses.

First - you simply cannot fully experience a wine without swallowing it, feeling the wonderful elixirfloat down your throat, discovering the length of the finish - you can literally count the seconds when you can still taste it, and know the satisfaction of having tasted one of the best wines in the world!

Spitting?  Sorry but you just don't get that sensation.

And you are at North America's largest consumer wine festival, with literally dozens of wines priced at $100 or more per bottle - why the hell would you spit that out?!!!

Plus,  you can simply "kiss" a lot of wines without swallowing or spitting!

By kissing I mean you nose the wine in the glass, bring it to your lips and then - unless it's awesomely tasty and probably quite expensive, you simply pour the wine into the conveniently located spit bucket on the table. 

Polite, discreet, saving your sobriety for none but the best and when you do sip and swallow it will be worth it!  

Lastly, proper spitting is hard - don't try to learn it in front of 1,600 people including sommeliers, winemakers, family and friends!  

So enjoy the Vancouver international wine festival and taste lots of the fantastic California and other wines from around the world and kisses lots of them!


Sunday, February 24, 2019

Harry Tieleman - last navigator of the RCMP's St. Roch - died on February 25, 2000 - my view of his amazing life

Navigator Harry Tieleman on RCMP St. Roch in 1954 - third from right

Last navigator Harry Tieleman on the RCMP St. Roch in 1992
My father Harry Tieleman was a truly remarkable man.  

Born in The Netherlands in 1925, he lived through the German Nazi occupation of his country; joined the Dutch Resistance; in the latter years of the Second World War went to the Japanese theatre of war for the Dutch Merchant Marine as a crew member on troop ships; came to British Columbia as a logger; then became an RCMP officer on Vancouver Island, meeting my mom Pat in Port Alice; serving as the last navigator of the RCMP's famous St. Roch when it retired and sailed from Halifax to Vancouver's Maritime Museum after it had been the first ship to cross through the Arctic northwest passage in both directions; then Harry became a small aircraft mechanic at Vancouver Airport; a bush pilot and mechanic in Burns Lake; a Home Oil distributor in Abbotsford; a garage and then garage and restaurant owner in Tofino; and finally retired in Nanaimo, where he passed away on February 25, 2000.

I wrote this article for The Vancouver Sun on December 14, 2000 and I am pleased to share it with you online on my blog.  
Harry was a great dad and had an almost unbelievable life. 

Fantastic Voyage - the life of Harry Tieleman

The Vancouver Sun

December 14, 2000

Hendrik Willem "Harry" Tieleman

Last navigator of the RCMP vessel St. Roch, Dutch merchant marine officer, logger, environmentalist, bush pilot and mechanic, small businessman, husband, father and grandfather.  Born in Leiden, the Netherlands May 28, 1925; died in Nanaimo, February 25, 2000.

When the RCMP's St. Roch II sails into Vancouver harbour on Saturday, December 16, 2000 the man who navigated the original schooner St. Roch from Halifax to Vancouver in 1954 on its final voyage will be absent from the celebration.

Harry Tieleman's own final voyage ended earlier this year but the highlight of his long and remarkably varied career began when he was chosen out of the blue by the RCMP to navigate the St. Roch home to Vancouver, where it was built.

Harry was extremely supportive of the Vancouver Maritime Museum's efforts to restore the ailing St. Roch so that it can continue to thrill visitors who agree with Museum Executive Director James Delgado's description of the ship as an "icon of our history."  Sadly, dry rot and neglect from lack of funding have threatened the very existence of the first vessel to sail the Arctic's Northwest Passage in both directions. 

With hard work and luck, the trip of the St. Roch II [also known as the Nadon] will hopefully help raise awareness and the funding needed to ensure an important part of Canadian maritime history is not lost.

Harry Tieleman's involvement in the original St. Roch's last journey was both unpredictable and totally appropriate.

Following the liberation of Holland, where a young Harry Tieleman had been involved with resistance efforts, he became an officer in the Dutch merchant marine, sailing to Indonesia, South Africa and through the Panama Canal to San Francisco.

In 1951 Harry decided to set out for adventure, arriving in British Columbia knowing no one.  He ended up in a series of logging camps throughout Vancouver Island.

Harry soon decided to join the RCMP and with his marine background was assigned to patrolling the Island coast on RCMP boats. [It was on assignment in Port Alice that he met Patricia Baseley, a nurse who became his wife of 44 years.]

In 1954, RCMP headquarters in Ottawa undertook an extensive search to find a seasoned crew for the St. Roch's return from Halifax to Vancouver, where the City had agreed to establish the ship as an historic monument.

Legendary Captain Henry Larsen, who was skipper for both Arctic voyages and by then an RCMP superintendent, was an obvious choice for this last trip, but finding a navigator proved more difficult. Someone searching through the files of RCMP officers eventually happened across Constable Harry Tieleman's name and discovered a man with considerable seagoing navigational experience gained sailing Dutch merchant ships.

A surprise call from Ottawa came to Vancouver Island and the young constable was told to report to Halifax as soon as possible.  "Dutchy" Tieleman joined the crew and was extremely impressed with "The Old Man," as the 55-year-old Larsen was affectionately known.

Newspaper story of the RCMP St. Roch in 1954 in Halifax preparing to sail to Vancouver on final voyage - Harry Tieleman on right with legendary Captain Henry Larsen.
The St. Roch arrived in Vancouver on October 12, 1954 to a hero's welcome and front page Vancouver Sun stories. The little 104-foot long, 80-ton schooner with a mere 300 horsepower engine was escorted into harbour by the 6,500 ton HMCS Labrador, which had left Halifax a day before the St. Roch but instead traveled to Vancouver through the Northwest Passage that the old schooner had pioneered.  

It was truly the end of an era. The St. Roch had returned to Vancouver, where it was built in 1928 by the Burrard Dry Dock Company.

For Harry Tieleman, the voyage of his life was over but his life's voyage continued.  Leaving the RCMP, he used his considerable knowledge of ship's engines to become an aircraft mechanic and pilot, working in the bush outside Burns Lake for a time.

Harry Tieleman with sons Bill Tieleman, left, and Ralph Tieleman 1962
Ever restless, he started the first of several small businesses as a Home Oil distributor in Abbotsford. Later he moved to Tofino and opened a gas station, which he transformed into Happy Harry's restaurant, serving seafood that rated a favourable mention in the Where To Eat In Canada guide.
Harry Tieleman in 1985 in Tofino - John Mastromonaco photo

During that time the former logger who had felled thousands of trees realized that clear-cut forestry practices around Tofino would soon kill the tourism-dependent town. With other environmentalists, Harry was an original member of the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, the group ultimately successful in preserving the unique rain forest of the area.

One of Harry's proudest moments was when, after buying 100 shares in MacMillan Bloedel so that he could move motions at the annual general meeting, he asked George Watts, leader of the Nuu-chah-nalth Tribal Council to speak on his behalf.  Harry had proposed swapping MacBlo timber licenses in Clayoquot for those elsewhere.

The motion was defeated but the die was clearly cast and in the years to follow Harry was rightfully proud of his important role.  Harry was also immensely pleased to be honoured by aboriginal people in the Tofino area, particularly when he was a non-aboriginal pallbearer at the funeral of his dear friend Chief Shorty Frank of the Opitsaht first nation.

Harry retired in 1990 to Nanaimo and the final chapter of his remarkable life.  Increasing health and memory problems led to a diagnosis of a form of Alzheimer's called Lewy Body Syndrome.  After a brave struggle, Harry Tieleman passed on.

For the last navigator of the St. Roch, his final trip was approached like that historic voyage to Vancouver -- with great determination to provide necessary guidance and with the knowledge that each journey is one of discovery, not only for oneself but for those who follow.

Bill Tieleman is Harry's oldest son and president of West Star Communications.


Monday, January 28, 2019

Suspended BC Legislature Clerk Craig James pro-BC Liberal bias in HST fight may lead to Nanaimo NDP by-election win

Craig James' pro-BC Liberal bias in the Harmonized Sales Tax battle with Fight HST was the precursor to current allegations of bias and financial improprieties.  And it could lead to a BC NDP win in Nanaimo by-election

Suspended BC Legislature Clerk Craig James - CBC screenshot
Monday January 28, 2019

By Bill Tieleman

Craig James simply moved the goal posts in the middle of the game. It was astounding.  No one in such a critically impartial position had ever done anything like it before, and it shook the foundation of that important office’s credibility to the ground.”

-        Ex-BC Premier Bill Vander Zalm on Craig James role as then-Chief Electoral Officer in changing recall rules after an application was made by Fight HST, in his book HST & The People For Democracy, p. 112, 2013

When now suspended BC Legislature Clerk Craig James was appointed acting Chief Electoral Officer at Elections BC in 2010, those working to eliminate the Harmonized Sales Tax imposed by the BC Liberal government were very concerned.

The reason Fight HST was anxious?  

Because then-Premier Gordon Campbell declined to extend the appointment of respected and neutral Chief Elections Officer Harry Neufeld by three months to finish off the HST Citizens Initiative procedure and instead made James Acting CEO as a temporary appointment, which avoided seeking the approval of a bi-partisan Legislative committee.

Those suspicions were proven in spades in short order, as James made a series of decisions that were prejudicial to Fight HST, the grassroots group led by ex-Social Credit Premier Bill Vander Zalm, where I served as strategist throughout.

Speaker Darryl Plecas drops a bombshell on Craig James

And the recent revelations in Speaker Darryl Plecas’ bombshell report on alleged financial wrongdoing and expenses mismanagement about James’ surprising and extensive connections to the BC Liberals shed new light on his past role at Elections BC during the HST battle.

What’s more, with the critical Nanaimo provincial by-election pending on Wednesday January 30, the past actions of James are coming home to roost for the BC Liberals at the absolutely worst time possible for them.

A win by novice BC Liberal candidate Tony Harris would create a tie in the Legislature, with the combined NDP government MLAs and the three Green MLAs supporting the government at 43 seats and the opposition with an equal 43, leaving independent speaker Plecas to break any ties. 

And that likely would lead to a provincial election in 2019, given the difficulty of managing the Legislature’s business with an extremely tense and narrow margin.

Stunning information about James’s close ties to BC Liberals hurts in Nanaimo

But the stunning emergence of new information from Plecas about James’ close and ongoing ties with the BC Liberals – including taxpayer-paid visits with former BC Premier Christy Clark after she had left office; with ex-BC Liberal Speaker Bill Barisov in the Okanagan; and with former BC Liberal Attorney General Geoff Plant – a key player in the HST court battles – means the BC Liberals face a lot of tough questions. 

And Nanaimo voters get the first chance to tell them they want answers, not another BC Liberal MLA in the Legislature and another election that could let them return to power.

That likely spells bad news for Harris, son of the late Tom Harris – a well-known Nanaimo car dealer – and also for BC Green Party candidate Michele Ney, daughter of the late Frank Ney – a longtime colourful Nanaimo mayor and one-term Socred MLA.

But it should help BC NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson – the former NDP Member of Parliament for Nanaimo-Ladysmith – win the seat vacated when veteran MLA Leonard Krog resigned to win election as mayor of Nanaimo last fall.  The NDP won it in 2017 with a very comfortable margin of over 3,800 votes.

As Andrew MacLeod wrote last week in The Tyee about James’ purported BC Liberal bias: 

“Plecas said in his report he first heard the allegation that James was partisan from [also suspended Sergeant-at-Arms Gary] Lenz in the fall of 2017. ‘Mr. Lenz expressed the view that Mr. James was not impartial and that he was in fact very close with the BC Liberal Party... I determined to reserve judgment on that subject.”

He wrote that others shared the impression that James was partisan thanks to decisions he had made while acting as the chief electoral officer on an interim basis starting in 2010.”

MacLeod notes that of 39 trips James made between March 2017 and August 2018, 70 per cent were to current or former BC Liberal MLAs, including 14 meetings with Plant and three with Christy Clark after she was no longer premier.

Now it seems that the long arm of history is reaching out after Craig James as well as the BC Liberals, with the HST episode apparently one of the first but not last controversies James was involved with.

Bill Vander Zalm details Craig James’ role at Elections BC during HST battle

Fight HST leader Bill Vander Zalm and Fight HST strategist Bill Tieleman
at Citizens Initiative launch, April 2010 - Cassandra photo
Vander Zalm details James’ role at Elections BC in his book on the HST battle that ultimately saw the hated tax extinguished through a provincial binding referendum after Fight HST launched the first and only successful Citizens Initiative petition – unique to BC in Canada – that garnered over 705,000 voter signatures in just 90 days in 2010.

“Gordon Campbell chose, what we immediately thought to be a [BC] Liberal friendly person, Legislative Clerk Craig James, to be the ‘Acting Chief Electoral Officer’.  His appointment was said to be for a few weeks until they could find a permanent replacement.  But it lasted over a year until the HST Petition and Referendum process had been completed,” Vander Zalm wrote.

In the summer of 2010, despite the success of the Citizens Initiative petition, James had ruled Elections BC would not proceed until a court application brought about by a big business coalition – trying to throw out the entire HST initiative – had been heard.

Fortunately, BC Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Bauman was unconvinced by the legal arguments led by former Attorney General Plant and Peter Gall, a lawyer well-known and disliked in the labour movement for taking pro-employer cases at the Labour Relations Board, often to block certification drives.

Bauman overruled James and said Citizens Initiative petition was within both the letter and spirit of the law.  

While that paved the way to the historic vote on the HST, Craig James was not yet done fighting Fight HST.

Recalling Craig James fighting the Fight HST recall campaign

With the BC Liberal government eventually agreeing to hold a binding referendum but delaying it until the summer of 2011, Fight HST attempted to force a much earlier vote by launching recall campaigns to remove some BC Liberal MLAs.

The first targeted was then cabinet minister and MLA Ida Chong in Oak Bay-Gordon Head, where local organizers for Fight HST were convinced they could succeed with a recall campaign starting in late November.

But three days after their recall applications was submitted, James ruled it invalid and rejected it.

Why?  Because it had exceeded, James said, the 200-word maximum in the description of the recall application.  

As Vander Zalm wrote in his book: “James said that the word ‘HST’ should have been written in full and counted as 3 words – ‘Harmonized Sales Tax’ – and ‘MLA’ as 5 words – ‘Member of the Legislative Assembly’. No, I’m not making this up.”

And in every reference to MLA or HST, not just the first.

But the stunning part wasn’t simply that James was being overly bureaucratic – it turned out he actually changed the Elections BC rules on acronyms – afterthe recall petition had been filed! 

Rules changed by Craig James after recall application already filed 

As the Globe and Mail reported:  “Elections BC rejected a Fight HST recall application as too lengthy – but did so using rules that were drafted after it received the application.”

After heavy criticism in the media from Fight HST, the NDP and others, James issued a statement “explaining” his actions that was less than convincing.

James also then ordered that 150 recall canvassers who had signed up with an Elections BC form must refill and refile their applications, forcing organizers to go back to each person for a new signature.

Together these two moves by James knocked up to two weeks off the start of the recall campaign – pushing it much closer to the Christmas holidays, a period where canvassing would be almost impossible to conduct.

In the end the recall effort obtained over 10,000 signatures in 60 days – impressive in the circumstances but not the 40% needed to force a by-election.

However, BC politics has a strange karma that often comes back to haunt those who cross it.  

James became the Legislature’s new clerk in 2011 over the objections of then-NDP leader Adrian Dix and then-house leader John Horgan, who said a full hiring procedure should have been conducted – leading the NDP to vote against James.

On Wednesday January 30, if the BC NDP are victorious in the Nanaimo by-election, they may have to thank Craig James helping secure their win, thanks to his past roles – including the by-election that never happened.
Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist who owns West Star Communications, a strategy, consulting and government relations firm for over 20 years serving labour, business, non-profits and others.  

Bill previously wrote a weekly political columnist for over 16 years, for The Tyee online magazine, the now-closed 24 Hours Vancouver newspaper and The Georgia Straight weekly.  Email him at or see Twitter @BillTieleman or visit his blog