Price of politics: B.C. Green candidate ordered to pay volunteer for expenses
Civil resolution tribunal decision says debt incurred during 'Green Party 2.0' campaign theme
A former Vancouver Island provincial election candidate must reimburse a volunteer for money she spent trying to help him realize his dream of a 'Green Party 2.0' candidacy.
B.C.'s Civil Resolution Tribunal has ordered Parksville-Qualicum Green candidate Glenn Sollitt to pay campaign operations manager Lois Sampson more than $2,500 worth of out-of-pocket expenses.
The case shines a light on the difficulties of raising money to run for office and the occasional burdens placed on both candidates and the people who volunteer their time to help them run for office.
'Green Party 2.0'
"In particular, Mr. Sollitt and the applicant met on March 10, 2017 and toured an empty heritage house he had rented for use as his campaign headquarters. Mr. Sollitt agrees he told the applicant he wanted the election headquarters to be 'Green Party 2.0', a change from a former theme," Tribunal vice chair Shelley Lopez wrote in her ruling.
"I accept (Sampson)'s submission that she was directed to furnish and stock with supplies Mr. Sollitt's rented campaign office, so that it could serve as both a venue for public campaign events as well as an office to support the local team and volunteers."
Sampson filed a claim with the tribunal against both Sollitt and the Green Party. Lopez dismissed the claim against the party because it played no role in either authorizing or approving the expenses.
Reached by phone, Sollitt said he will happily cut a cheque to Sampson.
"I hope that we can all just be positive about it," he said. "I hope Lois is happy to get the cheque. It's on its way and I hope this is closure to it."
Sollitt, who also ran federally for the Greens in 2015, came in third place in the provincial election, with 26 per cent of the vote in a riding held by former Liberal cabinet member Michelle Stillwell.
The case hinged on cash Sampson spent on furniture and furnishings bought at a thrift store, campaign office supplies, food and beverages and advertising and promotion.
Sampson worked for Sollitt's team from March 9 until she was terminated April 17, 2017, three weeks before the election.
She submitted an invoice for $5,228.26. But Sollitt's campaign paid her only $2,849.90.
According to the decision, Sollitt's financial agent emailed Sampson to say she was "extremely disappointed" with the claim and felt there was "a complete disregard for what we actually needed versus what items you have purchased."
The Elections Act says expenses must not be incurred without the authorization of the party or candidate's financial agent.
But Lopez found that both the candidate and his financial agent okayed the expenditures at the time they were made.
The financial agent sent Sampson an email at one point saying: "People will have to use their own means and be reimbursed. That can be a lot to ask, but that's the way it's going to have to be."
The decision never elaborates on the Green Party 2.0 theme — apart from its unexpected cost.
"As noted, Mr. Sollitt acknowledges that he had a vision of "Green Party 2.0" and that he 'obviously failed at conveying the specific instructions to (Sampson)," Lopez writes.
"While that failure is unfortunate, the applicant cannot be held responsible for it."
A former commercial fisherman who ended up starting his own seafood distribution company, Sollitt said he has learned many things about politics in the past few years.
One of the biggest lessons is financial.
"You need an enormous amount of resources, most of which is time. But closely related to time is money," he said.
"You need unlimited time and the financial backing to not only provide that time, but within the bounds of the Elections Act, you're out of pocket quite a bit."