BC Government Advertising Lawsuit
We are financing a lawsuit against the BC Government and the BCLiberal Party with respect to government advertising which is unnecessary and serves to advance the interests of the BCLiberal Party particularly during the 2017 election campaign.
We are a non-partisan group of lawyers who have agreed to take on this lawsuit and we hope to cover out of pocket and staff costs.
Our lawsuit seeks recovery of the money used by the BC Government for partisan advertising from the beneficiaries of the advertising, that is the BC Liberal Party.In our opinion, a duty of trust exists when it comes to the spending of money collected through taxes. Any government is required to spend tax money in the interests of the community they govern. If the government uses tax money for their own purposes, they breach this duty of trust -- a fiduciary duty.
If a government uses tax money to buy advertising that indirectly or directly enhances their party's chances at re-election, the party benefits unlawfully. They are unjustly enriched.
The BC Government has a multi-million dollar ad campaign using tax money. The ads are thinly-veiled promotion of the BC Liberal Party. They are designed to enhance the chances of the BC Liberal Party being re-elected. In our view the only remedy is to sue the BC Government and BC Liberal Party. And that's what we're doing.
The lawsuit is a class action suit on behalf of all taxpayers in BC. We want the BC Liberal Party to pay that money back to the Government so it can be used for schools, hospitals and children in care.
What's our angle? This is a public interest lawsuit. We're doing it because we think lawyers need to take on these types of cases. We have the skill and the support in our offices to take this on. And we believe in our case.
Who are we? David Fai is an acclaimed criminal lawyer who has been successful in striking down some of the more egregious legislation passed by the Harper government. Paul Doroshenko is behind most of the legislative and policy changes concerning the BC Government's much-lamented immediate roadside driving prohibition laws.
What happens if we're successful in our lawsuit? Any money recovered will go straight from the BCLiberal Party to Government coffers where it can then be spent for proper government purposes.
As for the money we hope to raise, we will use it to cover our expenses. There is a lot of work we will need to do. We expect that the amount we are seeking will only cover a portion of the actual costs to advance the lawsuit. We may need more help in the future. We are personally contributing our time and also our money to this cause because it's important.
Not only does our lawsuit benefit our community, it holds the BC Government and the BC Liberal Party to account.
What's our next step? The lawsuit launch is March 20, 2017. In the next couple of weeks we will go to BC Supreme Court to ask for an order stopping non-essential advertising until after the election.
Wish us luck and please give us a hand. The money you donate to this cause can do some good for the people of British Columbia.
When it comes to a lawsuit, the parties who are being sued have 21 days to reply. After that time the plaintiff can seek default judgment if the reply has not been filed and served on the plaintiff.
The 21-day deadline is designed to ensure matters move ahead. In some cases the defendants simply don't dispute the claim so it makes perfect sense to get default judgment. In others the threat of default judgment is the only thing that gets them moving. In situations where one party just wants to thwart justice, the 21-day limitation period restricts their ability to play games.
We started this lawsuit in March and we confirmed that both parties were served promptly. The BC Liberal Party filed no reply and no lawyer contacted us to indicate that they were acting for them.
We weren't surprised. It's a litigation tactic to delay the process.
The BC Government also didn't reply, but a lawyer for the BC Government did contact us when we notified them that we were seeking an order to stop the ads. When they pulled the ads we could no longer obtain an order, so we discontinued that application.
We waited for the BC Government to reply to the Notice of Claim within the 21 day period. They did not reply. We were not surprised.
It is common practice not to seek default judgment against a party once they have notified you that they are represented by a lawyer. When they are represented by a lawyer, as a professional courtesy lawyers are to notify opposing lawyers that they intend to seek default judgment.
Unfortunately, it has become common practice to exploit this common courtesy, so much so that the 21-day limitation period has become almost meaningless.
In our advertising lawsuit the BC Liberals did not bother to reply or contact us. They know the law. They just decided to disregard it.
The BC Government (run by the BC Liberals) also did not bother to reply. They know the law. They just decided to disregard it.
So because the BC Government did contact us, we notified their lawyer that we were seeking default judgment in court today because they did not reply. That prompted some action. Their lawyer contacted us and said the usual things (time is tight, I'm really busy - give me a bunch more time) and so we set a deadline for the BC Government to reply which is now a date next week.
We have assumed all along that the BC Government and the BC Liberal Parties are talking about this, strategizing and making plans. We cannot confirm that. We just know how these things play out.
Because the BC Liberal Party did not reply, we decided just to go for default judgment right away. No messing around. They received notice (it is clear on the face of the Notice of Claim) so there was no reason to hold back. So we went to court yesterday.
Now, when you add a matter to the list the court then prints out the list. And it appears online as a pdf. And so we figured that as soon as it was added to the list, we would probably get a panicky fax from their lawyer asking for more time, or that someone would show in court in the hopes of delaying the application.
So we were not surprised when we got a call from a lawyer acting for the BC Liberals. Their lawyer said the usual things (the BC Government should file first - give me a bunch more time, etc.).
Obviously as a courtesy we need to give them some time. They wanted a deadline weeks after the election. We refused to go that far. They have lawyers who knew about this for weeks. Over a month, in fact. So we set a deadline for a day next week.
As you consider all of this, you may not be filled with confidence in the justice system. We understand that. That the BC Government and the BC Liberals take a casual view of deadlines that apply to them is upsetting particularly in light of the fact that the BC Government will not budge an inch if a regular person misses a deadline.
One standard for the regular person. One standard for the BC Government.
That's just the way it is in our justice system.
We'll post another update here next week.
Thanks again everyone for your support.
Last week the BC Auditor General met with Andrew Wilkinson, the Minister of Advanced Education, to point out that a TV advertisement that she observed crossed the line into partisan promotion. That's putting it mildly. The funny thing is the reason she had to do this.
We expect that, like many British Columbians, she cringed each time she saw one of the TV ads that the BC Liberal Government ran in the last few months because they were so clearly partisan that to suggest otherwise is insulting. Still, it's not her job to speak out during an election. But you can see that in this case she had no choice.
When we filed our lawsuit on March 20, Andrew Wilkinson responded by suggesting that the ads were in some manner approved by the Auditor General or designed to fit within the Auditor General's recommendations. We laughed when we heard this because we'd actually read the Auditor General's Reports on partisan advertising. We expect that the Auditor General cringed.
The ads depart to such an extent from the Auditor General's recommendations that it was clear to us that no effort had been undertaken to abide by the Reports. Indeed, the only effort that had been undertaken from what we could see was to make small design changes and move some words around to provide themselves with a defence to the allegation that the ads are partisan. This is akin to the person who drives their car for work, insures it for pleasure only and then when they have an accident delivering pizzas they claim to love their job so much that it's a pleasure. Which doesn't work because it's insurance fraud.
So, we called them out by filing the lawsuit, they responded by suggesting that the ads were Auditor General approved, and then the Auditor General came out to shut that thing down.
Good for her.
Good for us too because the TV ads that are the subject of our lawsuit appear to have been pulled and in some cases pulled from the BC Government's Youtube channel.
As of now we're trying to determine if all of the non-essential paid-for advertising has been pulled. If that's the case, we will not be able to obtain any injunctive relief because we've already obtained our remedy.
As for the lawsuit to get that money back from the BC Liberal Party, we are moving full speed ahead. Shortly the defendants will need to formally reply to our Notice of Claim. We have anticipated their responses fairly well so far and we have our predictions of the positions they'll take. Of course, the BC Government and the BC Liberal Party are reading this too so we can't discuss litigation tactics.
As for our campaign to help us finance the lawsuit, raising the amount we have to date in such a short period of time tells us something about British Columbians. The good people of this province clearly are angered by BC Liberal politicians spending tax revenue for their own benefit.
So far we have had nearly 11,000 shares of our GoFundMe campaign on Facebook and nearly 12,000 individual visits to this site. If you look at the list of donors you will see that our friends and family have donated, some public figures and many astute observers of our current political morass.
Affidavits confirming service of the Notice of Claim have been received with respect to both defendants and service of the Notice of Application has been confirmed for the defendant BC Government, against whom we seek the injunction.
A hearing date has been scheduled for the injunction application. We expect that we'll be speaking to the entire claim in court before that date as it's not unusual for a defendant to try and derail a case before it starts. Then again, political concerns will largely guide how this matter will proceed in the near term. We want to get it on. They would love nothing more than for it to go away quietly.
We'll see what happens.
Interestingly, within a day or so after we filed the Notice of Claim many people reported a reduction in TV ads. Still, the warm fuzzy ads on the internet continue unabated. Paid for by you.
Today we filed the Notice of Application seeking the injunction. The respondent is the BC Government and not the BC Liberals because the BC Liberals would claim they have no control over the BC Government ads. The BC Government will receive service of our documents tomorrow.
The date has been set for the hearing but we'll wait to inform everyone about that until we're fairly certain the day we're aiming for is a go.
One thing I've learned dealing with this is the power of many brains. We've had 4 lawyers on this from nearly the beginning. David and I first formulated the plan. I handed the heavy lifting to Agnes Tong who is a lawyer in my office, Acumen Law. She's been working non-stop (seriously non stop) on this for over two weeks. Agnes has conducted the research and drafted the pleadings.
We've already come a long way from the original brain storming session with David, Agnes, Kyla Lee and myself. It was then that we identified our causes of action. We started consulting Chris Carta from tlag.ca about injunctive relief. Chris is a brilliant lawyer and genuinely nice guy. He had so many good suggestions and thoughts on arguments we'll face. We asked him to join us on this project, and so now we have another smart lawyer volunteering his time.
Mike Smyth wrote a straightforward rebuke of the ad campaign which will appear in the Province tomorrow. He pretty much sums it up:
It’s time to stop the madness of partisan government ads: http://theprovince.com/news/bc-politics/mike-smyth-its-time-to-stop-the-madness-of-partisan-government-ads
We're really enjoying some of the comments from people who have contributed to our endeavour. Everyone sees these ads for what they are.
The Government has relied on plausible deniability so far, suggesting that any similarity to BC Liberal ads is irrelevant because the ad content doesn't contain lies. In other words, normally it's all lies but these ones are excusable because for a change they include the truth?
It's hard to make sense of their justifications.
One recent comment pointed out that "the full page ad in the main section of the Vancouver Sun March 25th is a perfect example of why this lawsuit is valid." The ad is reproduced below.
What do you think? Do you think that the purpose is to spend your tax money to cast a warm glowing light of approval on the BC Liberals?
I agree and commend you for putting light on this shame, and trying to fund a legal fight. I will not support financially, because they have stolen and wasted much more of our tax dollars. And I don't have the means to share. But I can vote, as I do, and that is worth more than gold. Painfully I would accept and cut my losses by this pathetic government with happiness, as long as the people show up and vote. Fund that.... fund voter registration and education.
I applause your cause and thank you for standing up!! I'm up to here with their ads .. blowing their own horns constantly! I know the liberal party isn't mentioned but anyone who lives and votes in BC gets the gist! Driving up north in BC last summer and I swear you saw a huge sign and some billboards ever 10 miles patting themselves on the back for highways completed! Like they did it with their allowance and not with our tax dollars !! Go get em!
Will donate a bit toward this great idea. I disagree that 'everyone sees these ads for what they are,' however. I think many people are fooled by the BC Liberals; they were fooled in the last election also. The voters of this province have proven themselves to be naive at best, re-electing this corrupt government over and over again, believing the lies. This endeavour is a step in the right direction, a calling to account where there is no loud opposition because the news agencies are controlled by corporate interests that support the BC Liberals. Keep up the great work!
What do you mean "Obviously as a courtesy we need to give them some time" ?! They just have to play this out for a couple of weeks and it'll be lost in history. Stop messing about!
"We" are the government and you're advocating that I fund the suite (I did) against myself! So I'm funding both sides? As much as I hate the Lieberals, and especially Rich Coleman & Chrispy Clarke I don't see anything partisan about the 'Job Opportunity' ad. A waste of money, yes, but it doesn't mention 'Liberals'. But youse guys are the lawyers. I wish you every success!