You could make a pretty good movie based on Kash Heed’s disastrous political career. A cautionary tale about ambition, the perils of modern politics and the risks of a “star candidate.”
Heed was supposed to be a golden boy in the Liberal ranks. He looks good, presented well, at least in a superficial way, and was most recently chief of the West Vancouver police. Ambitious, confident of great things in his future, encouraged by Liberal operatives who pushed Wally Oppal out of the way to create a safe riding for Heed.
And it’s all gone to ruin.
Heed is now going to B.C. Supreme Court to try and hold on to his seat. An Elections B.C. audit has determined that his campaign broke the rules. Candidates could not spend more $70,000 on their campaigns; an audit found he spent $4,165 over the limit, the office says.
There are a lot of other issues around the tainted campaign. But let’s start with the spending.
It matters. Heed won by less than 850 votes. Illegal campaign spending could have tipped the balance.
B.C. has a Wild West approach to political donations that allows big backers to write unlimited cheques to support parties and candidates. Any violation of the few rules is significant.
Elections B.C. has been asking for a new finance report from the campaign since June and granted Heed repeated extensions.
Last month, it warned Heed’s election could be declared invalid and a byelection held.
Heed is pleading ignorance. That’s never a great defence, and particularly bad for a police chief and political star.
But in an affidavit filed on Christmas Eve, Heed says he had nothing to do with his campaign spending or financial reports. Oppal recommended two people to run the campaign. Heed says he accepted and they made all the decisions.
Heed says he can’t compel them to provide the information and he knows nothing. So all should be forgiven.
But that would mean an election might have been stolen by cheating.
It’s a scandal in itself. But there’s more.
A Chinese-language brochure smearing the NDP with false allegations was sent out in Heed’s riding near the end of the campaign. It was illegal, because there was no indication who sponsored it.
But an investigation linked it to the Liberal campaigners.
Heed’s campaign manager Barinder Sall faces five charges as a result, including obstructing justice, submitting a fraudulent document and improper election advertising. Two others involved with the campaign also face charges.
The unreported spending on the brochure is part of the campaign overspending, Elections B.C. alleges.
Heed stepped down as solicitor general while the incident was investigated.
Last May, a special prosecutor cleared him. Gordon Campbell, off at a meeting in Europe, put him back in cabinet.
And then the special prosecutor revealed his law firm donated to Heed’s campaign. He resigned. Heed stepped down again.
And a new special prosecutor was appointed and the investigation started again. The police report sits with the new special prosecutor.
Now an RCMP application for search warrants alleges Heed used $6,000 in public funds that was supposed to furnish his office to pay two campaign workers, including the campaign manager.
It’s quite a spectacular mess.
Heed has the right under the Election Act to ask the court to clear him if he acted “in good faith.”
But his affidavit doesn’t reveal any effort on his part to get the needed information or press his campaign’s financial agent to complete the reports. And the act appears to say the “good faith defence” applies only if the financial agent and the candidate both are found to have met the standard. It’s not enough for the candidate to plead ignorance.
The Liberals – politicians and party officials – have been silent on the affair.
But the prospect of a continuing scandal, and perhaps a byelection, can’t be cheering.
Footnote: The searches also uncovered a 2008 e-mail in which Heed touted his prospects to his future campaign manager.
“Think of things this way: You are a trainer that has a few horses in your stable ,” he allegedly wrote. “Wally (Oppal) is getting on and needs to be put out to pasture soon. You have a stallion that has been in training for some time and you and everyone else know he’s a winner, but can’t wait on the sidelines forever.”
Oppal gave up his seat for Heed and lost in a new riding.