The head of a community group promoting a “yes” vote in Saturday’s referendum on the Castlegar Community Complex expansion says they did nothing inappropriate with money they received from the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
Dave Kravski says money the Ambassadors for Complex Expansion (ACE), received for educational purposes from the RDCK was spent in that way.
“The RDCK gave us money for that purpose,” says Kravski. “So we feel we stayed true to that.”
“But we received other monies for those purposes, and we were asked later on in the campaign to have a more progressive message.”
Kravski was responding to complaints made by RDCK Area I director Andy Davidoff on Thursday that ACE had been printing promotional materials, including road signs, calling on residents in his area to vote “Yes” to funding the $32 million complex expansion.
In May the RDCK board had voted to give ACE $10,000 to finance an education campaign on the proposal.
On Thursday, Davidoff tried to move that the board also finance a “No” campaign for the same amount. While the motion was defeated, he said he had made his point.
Other directors, including Castlegar Mayor Lawrence Chernoff, defended ACE’s work.
But Kravski says ACE kept two pots of money, one for educational purposes, and one for promoting the “yes” campaign. He says the money was kept separate.
“Even before we got rolling, we were tagged as a “Yes” campaign,” he says. “Obviously we worked hard to just educate and inform. But halfway through, we were asked to change our message to be a bit more progressive.
“So we made sure the money given to us outside the RDCK was used for that.”
He wouldn’t say how much ACE had received to promote the “Yes” campaign, because the numbers weren’t finalized. He said the money came from Castlegar City Council and Castlegar Minor Hockey to promote a “Yes” vote.
City council gave ACE $750, but he wouldn’t say how much was received from the local minor hockey group.
He also said that ACE hadn’t spent all it received from the RDCK, and some would be returned unspent to the regional government.
“We have not spent the $10,000,” he says. “I don’t want to say what the final number is because we have not completely got all our bills in. But we have not spent the $10,000 fully.”
Kravski said ACE had registered with Elections BC as a third party advertising sponsor, and would be preparing a financial report to the body that oversees referendums and elections.
The head of communications with Elections BC said there’s nothing prohibiting ACE from both doing educational and promotional work in a campaign.
Andrew Watson said third party advertisers are governed by the Local Election Campaign Financing Act, which sets out certain rules. Those include the requirement to register with Elections BC, to include its name and contact information on all advertising, and to file a financial disclosure statement by September 21.
There are no other limitations set out on a group’s activities.
There’s also nothing wrong with the RDCK promoting the project, or its money being used for promotional purposes by third parties. Watson said local governments do have some different technical rules with advertising in a campaign, but they can take a position in its advertising.
In the meantime, Kravski has no regrets on his role during the referendum campaign.
“This has been a very polarizing issue,” he says. “I feel that I wanted to encourage people to go and vote, and from that standpoint I fully respect the democractic process and will respect a “No” decision.
“But I also feel it was important to explain and identify what this could bring to my community.”