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VoteSmart BC triggers pre-election skirmish

As the May provincial election nears, a pro-Liberal group has fired an online shot at the NDP, and drawn some angry return fire.

The skirmish started with a January 28 news release announcing “Vote Smart BC,” a TV and online campaign sponsored by the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association.

The release quoted Phil Hochstein, president of the ICBA:

“Our members are family-owned construction businesses and with the current global economic downturn, we want to remind people that our province can't afford a return to the disastrous policies of the NDP.

“What’s different about these ads is that we’re taking a lighthearted approach to the NDP record. The underlying message about the economy is serious, but these times call for a little bit of humour to remind people that continued strong economic management is essential for our province to weather the storm.”

The VoteSmart BC website has now provoked a countersite, VoteSmartBC Exposed, which attacks Hochstein as “a well-known anti-union contractor on the far right of the BC political spectrum.”

In a letter that went out on Friday, NDP president Jeff Fox used VoteSmart BC as a springboard for a fund-raising appeal:

“One of Gordon Campbell’s closest backers has launched an attack on the NDP while hiding behind a campaign called Vote Smart BC. It is believed that this hidden anti-NDP force plans to spend as much as $350,000 on these ads before spending limits take effect on February 13.

“The Independent Contractors Business Association has donated more than $300,000 to the BC Liberals since 1996, and head Phil Hochstein has advocated a number of controversial positions, including weakening the Agricultural Land Reserve, opposing the Kyoto Accord, and tearing up legal contracts with workers....

“I have sent this note to tens of thousands of supporters of the BC NDP and I am not asking for a large contribution, just a quick one. Please give what you can afford, right now, to help get this message out. I need just $10 from you by February 12 to get this message out in time.”

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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