Parties trade accusations over crime and police, as B.C. election heats up
Last Updated: Tuesday, May 5, 2009 | 11:27 AM PT
With just seven days left before the May 12 provincial election, B.C.'s two top political parties appear to be ramping up their accusations of dirty politics and pushing their stands on fighting crime.
The issue is an important one, particularly in the Lower Mainland, which has seen a wave of shootings linked to a gang war for control of the illegal drug trade. The latest Angus Reid Strategies poll has suggested crime and public safety are the second most important issues, after the economy, for voters, as they prepare to head to the polls.
In the latest salvo of accusations and counter-accusations, on Monday the B.C. NDP attacked Vancouver-Fraserview Liberal candidate Kash Heed for being pictured in uniform in his former role as West Vancouver police chief in a Chinese-language campaign ad that depicted him as a super crime fighter with a firm hand.
"It shows bad judgment for the former West Vancouver police chief to pose in a partisan campaign ad in his old police uniform, especially when there are so many outstanding questions about his last days in office," West Vancouver NDP candidate Terry Platt said in a statement released on Monday.
Platt said she still has concerns about Heed's unexpected retirement from the force less than two years into his contract, to run for the B.C. Liberals in the provincial election.
"There's still a lot of anger about a $40,000 severance payout even though he voluntarily quit in February, leaving many unanswered questions about his status on the force," said Platt.
Former chief proud of service in uniform
But Heed said he's proud of his three decades in uniform, first as a Vancouver police officer, then as the West Vancouver chief.
"Everyone knows I was in policing for so many years, and I have an impeccable career in policing. So I carry on and I'm very proud of the fact," Heed said on Monday.
Earlier in the campaign, Heed threatened to sue his NDP rival Gabriel Yiu for distributing a Chinese-language pamphlet that said Heed supported legalizing street drugs, a claim Heed denied.
Liberal Leader Gordon Campbell stood behind the star candidate during a question and answer session with South Asian media in Surrey on Monday.
"I think that it's important for people to recognize that Kash has a long, long history as a public servant dealing with public safety," said Campbell.
Police lied about traffic violation: candidate
Campbell then shot back, accusing the NDP candidate for Abbotsford South, Bonnie Rai, of attacking the integrity of Abbotsford police in an article published in the Abbotsford Times newspaper on Friday.
"She doesn't trust the police. That's a far, far more serious thing than the fact that someone's deciding to pose in his uniform because he's had 30 years experience as a police officer," Campbell said on Monday.
In the newspaper article, Rai accused a police officer of lying when she tried to fight a traffic ticket for failing to stop in 2001.
"I tell you the cop lied," the newspaper quotes Rai as saying. "The cops have a responsibility to follow moral leadership and let me tell you, the cops do not have that here [in Abbotsford]."
Rich Coleman, the Liberal candidate for Fort Langley-Aldergrove, also issued a statement slamming Rai for her "disrespect for community law enforcement," and NDP Leader Carole James for "a complete lack of leadership from the NDP on crime."
"Every day police officers leave their homes and families and put their lives on the line for British Columbians. We should be thanking them for the work they do, not criticizing them because it is politically expedient," Coleman said.
Promoting close ties with police has landed another Liberal candidate in hot water.
Surrey-Whalley Liberal candidate Radhia Benalia has been taking heat from the NDP after publishing a campaign brochure last week that appeared to have the endorsement of a top RCMP officer.
The campaign brochure featured a picture of Benalia posing with Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Fraser MacRae, above a caption that read, "Together we will keep Whalley and Surrey safer for our children. Together we will succeed."
NDP candidate Bruce Ralston said his campaign staff contacted the RCMP in Surrey and received an assurance that the endorsement was not authorized.
"It is an obvious attempt to mislead the voters into believing the chief is endorsing Radhia Benalia's candidacy," said Ralston.
"It smacks of desperation and a profound lack of knowledge of what is appropriate. Ms. Benalia is a very inexperienced rookie, but her party should have known better."