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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Empire Fading?

Funding for Empire Days cut by council
http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/news/funding-for-empire-days-cut-by-council-1.1737512


Editorial: It's time to end the debate on event name
http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/it-s-time-to-end-the-debate-on-event-name-1.1737509




As most folk know I have been a staunch advocate to eliminate 'Empire Days' as a celebration in the City of Nanaimo.  Below is a letter to the editor I wrote in response to this comment from the story;
"City council voted to cut funding for the Empire Days Celebration Society at Monday night's meeting unless the organization changes its name. Coun. Diane Brennan tabled the motion, which passed with a 7-2 vote. Jim Kipp and Gord Fuller were opposed."


Re: Funding for Empire Days cut by council


The following statement in the story needs to clarified; “Coun. Diane Brennan tabled the motion, which passed with a 7-2 vote. Jim Kipp and Gord Fuller were opposed.”



I have received a number of calls, one by the story writer, with regards to my vote as it is well known that, over the years, I have been one of the most vocal in the community against our celebration of “Empire Days.” 


Why choose to oppose the ‘motion’? It was simply because the recommendation that “the society be exempt from the 2015 budget for operating grants, festivals and events” was tied to a broader motion to approve the Cultural Operating Grant Recommendations being awarded to a number of organizations that were before council that night; which I did oppose; the reason a story for another time.


Over the years for my stance against I have been labeled a professional agitator, funny never did get paid, and in one instance, which I have saved, had a message left on my answering machine accusing me of trying to ruin Nanaimo and its’ history; that I should get, ‘bleeping’ real; get a ‘bleeping life’ and get a ‘bleeping’ job.


As an Advocate for Social Change in the community for close to two decades, prior to being elected to council, my opposition to the celebration of ‘Empire’ is one I am most proud of.


The British Empire faded into history years ago and it is well past due that Nanaimo’s celebration of it fades away as well.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Breach of Elections Act

Breach of Election Act:
At the bottom of this post is a copy of a complaint filed by  Dominic Jones with:
-----
Keith Archer, Ph.D.
Chief Electoral Officer
PO Box 9275 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9J6
“By Email
Dear Sir:
Pursuant to Section 75 of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, I respectfully ask that you conduct a formal investigation into the unlawful actions on general voting day by Mrs. Diane Brennan, candidate in the 2014 Nanaimo municipal election.”
------------
Many others are also sending letters to the Chief Electoral Officer. It is important to understand that Diane Brennan is a sitting Councillor and was re-elected by a slim majority over another Councillor.

For me the most blatant and shameful act on Ms. Brennan’s part was her use of Twitter while at the 7-10 Club Community Meal program.  This was, in my opinion, a blatant post to garner votes.

For one thing Ms Brennan has seldom volunteered at the 7-10 Club, only a couple of occasions that I am aware of, and she didn’t even get the name of the group hosting this particular breakfast right.  It was not the John Howard Society but a group of Vancouver University Students from different Countries; providing an international Breakfast of German, Asian and Mexican cuisine.

What will be the outcome of this complaint, I do not know but that a formal complaint and letters from others is a sign of our democratic process and I encourage folk to speak out and loud when they become aware of an abuse of that process.

Daily News story:

Letter to the editor by Dominic Jones:
“Even if we ignore the allegations I made to Elections BC, by Mrs. Diane Brennan's own account to the Nanaimo Daily News she broke the rules. However, she's taking no responsibility for her actions, and doesn't see them as being unfair to the other candidates who she narrowly beat.
This is like an athlete refusing to give up a gold medal after admitting to taking a performance enhancing drug. She didn't read the label, and because no race officials stopped her on the track, she should get to keep the award she won by just 0.08 seconds. Too bad for the other contestants.
The right thing is for Mrs. Brennan to give up any claim to the seat before the Dec. 1 swearing in. Let's run her race again in a fair by-election so that the new council can move on.
If she did that, I would withdraw my complaint.”

Draft letter by Tim Mcgrath that anyone can copy and paste for their own complaint:

As a result of activity concerning Diane Brennan on Election Day, I have written ELECTIONS BC. I RECOMMEND everyone do the same. People are welcome to copy mine, alter it with your own comments and send it in.
-------------
Keith Archer, Ph.D.
Chief Electoral Officer
PO Box 9275 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria BC V8W 9J6
By Email: electionsbc@elections.bc.ca
Dear Sir:
Pursuant to Section 75 of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, I respectfully request a formal investigation into the unlawful actions on general voting day by Mrs. Diane Brennan, candidate in the 2014 Nanaimo municipal election.

Of the eight candidates declared elected, Mrs. Brennan received the lowest number of votes. She was elected by a margin of 100 votes more than the candidate with the next highest number of votes. She received 4.73% of the total vote compared to the next candidate with 4.65% -- a difference of only 0.08 percentage points.

It is my belief, that her deliberate unlawful actions in the election, gave her an unfair advantage. Without the advantage Mrs. Brennan would have failed to secure sufficient votes to be elected on November 15, 2014.

As we have seen at the Federal Level, when the integrity of our democracy is at risk, severe punishment is appropriate. The unlawful advertising was deliberate, campaign oriented, calculated to reach electors at the most opportune times at voting places, and conducted with demonstrable contempt for the rules.

-----

Complaint:


 Dominic Jones 

 6529 Groveland Drive 
 Nanaimo, V9V 1P7 
 250-933-5437 

 November 18, 2014 

Keith Archer, Ph.D. 
Chief Electoral Officer 
PO Box 9275 Stn Prov Govt 
Victoria BC V8W 9J6 

By Email 

Dear Sir: 

Pursuant to Section 75 of the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act, I 
respectfully ask that you conduct a formal investigation into the unlawful actions 
on general voting day by Mrs. Diane Brennan, candidate in the 2014 Nanaimo 
municipal election. 

Of the eight candidates declared elected, Mrs. Brennan received the lowest 
number of votes. She was elected by a margin of 100 votes more than the 
candidate with the next highest number of votes. She received 4.73% of the total 
vote compared to the next candidate with 4.65% -- a difference of only 0.08 
percentage points. 

It is my steadfast belief, based on the evidence in the report attached to this 
letter, that without her deliberate unlawful actions in the election, Mrs. Brennan 
would have failed to secure sufficient votes to be elected on November 15, 2014. 

I estimate that Mrs. Brennan’s unlawful advertising on Twitter and Facebook 
had a total measurable potential reach of 4,304 people. This number is 
overwhelmingly material to the election result considering the slim margin by 
which she secured election. 

The unlawful advertising was deliberate, campaign oriented, calculated to reach 
electors at the most opportune times at voting places1, and conducted with 
demonstrable contempt for the rules. 

1 Since most social media communications are accessed on mobile devices, the unlawful campaign 
advertising would have reached many electors while they were either heading to or in voting 
places. 

The evidence shows that Mrs. Brennan demonstrated a pattern of contemptuous 
disregard for the Province’s election rules by repeatedly ignoring them. I show 
that Mrs. Brennan not only ignored several public cautions from electors on Nov. 
15, but she continued her unlawful actions even after Elections BC 
contacted her directly. 

While I have been made aware that Elections BC is satisfied that Mrs. Brennan’s 
removal of her Twitter posts (not the Facebook posts) remedied those particular 
irregularities, I respectfully submit to you that any determination to that effect on 
the afternoon of Nov. 15 was premature without considering the potential 
materiality of the unlawful advertising on the final voting results. Additionally, I 
provide evidence to show that removal of the Twitter posts was an 
insufficient remedy given that the damage had already been done by the time 
the removals took place. 

In any event, I respectfully submit that individual instances of unlawful 
advertising should not be viewed in isolation. The Twitter campaign advertising 
should be viewed in conjunction with the Facebook advertising (and any other 
unlawful activities) in determining materiality to warrant an investigation. 

Based on the evidence submitted herewith, I contend that Mrs. Diane Brennan 
was elected by cheating in a calculated, deliberate manner that demonstrated 
insubordination and contempt for elections laws and the authority of Elections 
BC. These actions subverted the democratic process by unfairly tipping the scales 
in her favor. 

While I am submitting evidence only of unlawful campaigning on general voting 
day, I don’t wish to limit the scope of any investigation that you may deem 
necessary in light of Mrs. Brennan’s non-compliance with the rules and evident 
contempt for Elections BC directives. 

Given the very public nature of Mrs. Brennan’s actions, I believe that it is 
imperative for you to thoroughly investigate this matter so that the Nanaimo 
electorate can have confidence in the fairness of the electoral process, knowing 
that the rules will be enforced and that no one is above them. 

I am an elector in the municipality of Nanaimo. I am registered on the voters roll 
and voted in the election. I was not a member of any campaign in the election. I 
am self-employed as an Internet consultant and have experience with the 
technologies relevant to this complaint. Prior to this I was a journalist and author 
for more than 10 years. I make this complaint in good faith driven by a 
journalistic moral compass. 

Yours truly, 

Evidence of Election Irregularities by Diane 
Brennan: 

This report compiles evidence drawn from several public Internet sources and 
includes some evidence that Mrs. Diane Brennan has since caused to be removed 
from the Internet. For verification purposes, I can make the original screenshots 
available to Elections BC upon request. 

While every effort was made to document all instances of unlawful Internet 
advertising by Mrs. Brennan’s campaign on Nov. 15, 2014, there may be 
additional unlawful advertising or other actions that I am not aware of. 

The report is divided into 4 sections: 

1) A chronology of the unlawful advertising supported by screenshots 
showing electronic timestamps; 
2) An analysis of the audience reach of the unlawful advertising; 
3) An analysis of the campaign-oriented nature of Mrs. Brennan’s social 
media posts; and, 
4) Evidence of Mrs. Brennan’s repeated contempt for Elections BC rules. 

The electronic timestamp is shown below the message. 
The screenshot was taken by Pam Agnew at 1:02pm on 
Nov. 15. It also shows a message by John Woods at 
10:55am cautioning Diane Brennan about the legality 
of her message. 

1. Sequence of Diane Brennan’s social media 
activity on Nov. 15, 2014 
I am aware of six separate actions by Mrs. Brennan on social media on Nov. 15, 
2014. These actions include posts and deletions of posts. 

The following is a chronological timeline of these actions based on the electronic 
timestamps of the posts or estimates based on real time observations: 

10:44am Nov. 15 – Diane Brennan Twitter Post 


12:38pm Nov. 15 – New “Elect Diane Brennan” Facebook Cover 
Photo Posted. 




12:41pm Nov. 15 – Diane Brennan Twitter Post 


Between approximately 12:48pm and 1:30pm Nov. 15 – 
Removal of Twitter Posts. 

It is my understanding that Elections BC staff contacted Mrs. Brennan 
concerning her Twitter activity and instructed her to remove offending posts. 
This was done after other Twitter users copied the Elections BC Twitter account 
on their messages to Mrs. Brennan complaining about her activity. 

The 12:41pm “Vote” image Tweet was removed by Mrs. Brennan at approximately 
12:48pm, according to a message by Twitter User Erin Burret. See below: 



 However, at 1:o2pm the earlier Twitter message from 10:44am remained 
accessible. At 1:30pm, when Dominic Jones viewed Mrs. Brennan’s Twitter feed, 
the 10:44am message had also been removed. 

The Facebook post of 12:38pm was not removed at any time on Nov. 15. 

4:21pm Nov. 15 – New “Elect Diane Brennan” Facebook Cover 
Photo Posted. 



2. Reach of Social Media Activity Materially 
Significant 

I estimate Diane Brennan’s social media activity on Nov. 15 reached a potential 
audience of 4,304. This is highly material considering that she won election only 
by 100 votes (or 0.08 percentage points) over the next highest candidate in the 
election. 

 Due to the viral nature of social media, measuring the distribution of individual 
social media messages is an inexact science. This is because actual distribution is 
a combination of direct distribution to followers, plus the additional distribution 
of recipients sharing the message and from indexing by search engines, such as 
hashtag streams on Twitter. 

To illustrate, consider the following two examples: 

4:21pm Facebook Post reached ~ 2,827 people 

When the cover photograph on the Elect Diane Brennan page was changed at 
4:21pm, a message saying “Elect Diane Brennan updated their cover photo” 
was instantly sent to the News Feeds of the 284 people who were following the 
page at the time. But this is only the beginning of the post’s reach. 

Comments and likes on the cover photo generated additional notifications to 
recipients’ own followers. For instance, when NDP Candidate for Nanaimo-
Ladysmith, Sheila Malcolmson, “liked” and then commented on Diane 
Brennan’s new cover photo, her 1045 friends and an additional 95 followers (total 
1,140) received notifications to the effect that “Shiela Malcolmson commented 
on Elect Diane Brennan’s cover photo.” 

Additionally, when Arjan Manhas commented on the same photo, notifications to 
the effect of “Arjan Manhas commented on Elect Diane Brennan’s cover 
photo” were sent to 1043 more people. 

The viral nature of social media is what makes it so effective, and potentially 
so prejudicial in an election. Notifications of this kind can be delivered to electors 
on their mobile phones at voting places, thereby undermining of the 100-
metre rule. 

In the instance of the 4:21pm Elect Diane Brennan cover photo update alone, 
notifications were sent to approximately 2,827 people when counting the 
followers of all those who liked it. 

There is no way of knowing, of course, how many of these people actually saw the 
advertising, where they were or what effect it had on their voting choices. But 
even if one halves this audience figure, it’s still a materially significant level of 
irregular promotional activity in an election where the margin of victory was so 
slight. 

It bears remembering that the 4:21pm Facebook post occurred after Elections 
BC contacted the candidate to instruct her to remove her Twitter messages. 

10:44am Tweet had estimated reach of more than 836 people 

On Nov. 15, 2014, Diane Brennan’s Twitter account was followed by 836 people. 
However, the reach of her message at 10:44am must also take into account the 
additional distribution generated by her use of a hashtag #nanelxn14. 



Using the #nanelxn14 hashtag resulted in the message being seen by people who 
were not directly following Diane Brennan, but who were tracking local election 
news through the hashtag. 

It is impossible to tell from public sources how many Twitter users were 
monitoring the hashtag, but it was easily in the hundreds. Twitter would be able 
to provide Elections BC with more accurate information. 

Finally, it is important to realize that even though Elections BC required the 
candidate to remove this particular message, removal had little or no effect 
on the message’s reach. 

This is because the median time during which a tweet is current in user’s feeds is 
just 18 minutes2. In this instance, the message was removed more than 2 

2 When Is My Tweet's Prime of Life? (A brief statistical interlude.) Bray, Peter. November 2012 

hours after first being sent, at which time it was largely disseminated and 
consumed. The damage had already been done. Therefore, Elections BC’s 
ordered removal of the message has not provided adequate remedy for the harm 
done by Mrs. Brennan’s activities. 

Calculating Total Reach of Diane Brennan’s Unlawful Social 
Media Advertising 

My estimated total reach figure is the simple sum of the direct and secondary 
distribution of the four messages on both Twitter and Facebook. It is a 
conservative estimate in that is does not count any additional reach from the use 
of the Twitter election hashtag. 

The components are thus: 

1. 10:44am Twitter = 836 (hashtag reach excluded) 
2. 12:38pm Facebook = 432 (direct + 2 likes) 
3. 12:41pm Twitter = 209 (removed after 7 minutes therefore used 25% of 
836 direct followers) 
4. 4:21pm Facebook= 2,827 

TOTAL REACH = 4,304 

Considering the slim margin by which Mrs. Brennan was elected, it is my view 
that the significant reach of her unlawful advertising on Nov. 15 had a material, 
determining effect on the voting results. 

Further, the actions taken by Elections BC on Nov. 15 were ineffective and 
insufficient to remedy or prevent harm to the integrity of the election. 

3. Content & Timing of Messages Was Campaign 
Oriented 

While there are some exceptions from the prohibition against social media 
messages by candidates on general voting day, none of Mrs. Brennan’s activity 
falls under those exceptions. 

All of the messages were campaign oriented and designed both to promote herself 
as a candidate and to reach the broadest possible audience of electors at times 
when they were likely at or heading to voting places. 

Since both Twitter messages were deleted on instruction from Elections BC staff, 
I presume that they have already been deemed to be unlawful. However, I would 
point out that they were clearly campaign oriented and not open to 
interpretation. 

The first message at 10:44am included the #nanelxn14 hashtag, which clearly 
associated it with the election. While the typo might have ruined the impact, the 
message was meant to portray Mrs. Brennan as a person who cares for the poor, 
including hungry children. It further implied that electors who did not vote for 
her were guilty of “turning their back.” 

The second Twitter post and first Facebook message containing the “Vote” image 
were in clear breach of elections laws and the guidelines communicated to all 
candidates throughout the election period, including in a letter on Nov. 14. 

The second Facebook post at 4:21pm contained a photograph of Mrs. Brennan 
flanked by well-known local politicians. They included, incumbent Councilor 
Diana Johnstone, who was not seeking re-election, and federal NDP candidate 
Shiela Malcolmson, who endorsed Mrs. Brennan. This photo was clearly political 
and campaign oriented. It was also potentially misleading as Diana Johnstone 
had not endorsed Mrs. Brennan. 

Moreover, every Facebook notification about the photo included the text “Elect 
Diane Brennan.” For example, direct followers of Mrs. Brennan’s page received 
notices stating “Elect Diane Brennan has updated their cover photo,” while 
friends and followers of Shiela Malcolmson received notifications stating “Shiela 
Malcolmson commented on Elect Diane Brennan’s cover photo.” 

The timing of Mrs. Brennan’s social media updates coincided with times when 
increased numbers of electors would presumably be heading to the voting places 
– after breakfast (10:44am), during the lunch hour (12:38pm and 12:41pm) and 
just before sunset (4:21pm). 

4. Evidence of Mrs. Brennan’s Contempt for 
Elections BC Rules 

From my review of public communications on social media, it’s clear that there 
was widespread awareness among local candidates, election staff and the 
electorate of the prohibition against Internet campaigning on general voting day. 
The rules around campaigning on general voting day are made clear on Elections 
BC’s website and in the guidelines issued to all candidates. 

Indeed, Elections BC reminded all candidates of the general voting day rules for 
campaigning again on Nov. 14 in a concise, clearly worded and bullet listed letter 
to all candidates on the morning of Nov. 14. The letter specifically mentioned 
Facebook and Twitter. 

It is inconceivable that Mrs. Brennan was not aware of the prohibitions against 
Internet advertising on general voting Day, Nov. 15. At minimum, she had a duty 
to know. 

The public record also shows that Mrs. Brennan ignored messages from users on 
Facebook alerting her to the rules. The first of these was made at 10:55am Nov. 15 
by John Woods of Gabriola Island in response to Mrs. Brennan’s 10:44am 
Twitter message. See below: 



The message from John Woods would have been sent to Mrs. Brennan’s Twitter 
account and she would have been aware of it through any Twitter application on 
her phone or other computer device. It bears noting that Mrs. Brennan is an 
experienced and regular Twitter user, having opened her current account on the 
service in October 2011 and having made over 2600 messages. A review of her 
Twitter account shows that she routinely replies to @ messages direct to her. 

Despite John Woods’ message, the record shows that Mrs. Brennan posted a new 
cover photo to her Facebook Page at 12:38pm. 

Mrs. Brennan was again alerted to the unlawful nature of her 10:44am, Twitter 
message at 12:40pm by a person using the Twitter account @ausername. See 
below: 


Despite this, Mrs. Brennan proceeded to post her second message on Twitter one 
minute later at 12:41pm. 

The record shows that one minute later, at 12:42pm, @ausername posted a 
message to Mrs. Brennan and the Elections BC Twitter account. 

It was only after this, at about 12:48pm, that Mrs. Brennan deleted her 12:41pm 
Twitter message containing the “Vote” image. 

Shortly before or at 1:30pm, after apparently being contacted by Elections BC, 
Mrs. Brennan finally deleted her 10:44am Twitter message. 

However, the “Vote” cover photo that she posted to her Elect Diane Brennan 
Facebook page at 12:38pm was not deleted at any point on Nov. 15. 

Finally, at 4:21pm Mrs. Brennan posted a new cover photo to her Facebook page, 
notwithstanding the fact that she had every reason to know that such activity was 
prohibited given that Elections BC had contacted her directly earlier in 
the day. 

Based on all of the above, I submit that the public record overwhelmingly 
suggests that it is implausible that Mrs. Brennan was unaware of the rules at any 
time during her repeated unlawful actions on Nov. 15. 

Consequently, Mrs. Brennan’s actions suggest that she either thinks she is above 
the law, or that she calculated that ignoring the rules was a risk worth taking if it 
helped her get over the vote threshold needed for election. 

ENDS