Update: Oct. 26, 5 p.m.
We made a mistake in the election penalties listed in this article. They are, in fact, the maximum penalties for an elections offence — which Penticton’s elections officer also mistakenly quoted and directed us to — rather than the lower penalties for canvassing at the polls. Reading lower in the section of the Local Government act, the possible offence in this case, would be canvassing or soliciting votes or otherwise attempting to influence how an elector votes, which carries a maximum penalty of a fine of not more than $5,000 and/or imprisonment for a term not longer than one year.
“It’s unfortunate that during election periods that people will often report innocent actions as offences,” said Peter Weeber, Penticton’s chief administrative officer. “I am confident the investigation will find there is no issue.”
Weeber also praised Laurie Darcus’ organization of the election, saying it was one of the best-run he has seen.
A bit of glad-handing at the Oct. 18 advance poll has people in Penticton discussing whether Mayor-elect John Vassilaki was indulging in some improper campaigning.
According to a post on Facebook, Vassilaki was observed coming out of the polling station at the Seniors’ Drop-in Centre and shaking hands with people in the lineup waiting to cast their votes.
“Under the community charter, it’s considered an election offence to be campaigning within 100 metres of a polling station,” said Laurie Darcus, Penticton’s elections officer, adding that such complaints are handled by the local RCMP.
Vassilaki said he, his wife and his mother, who recently broke her leg, were all there to vote.
“She’s a very slow walker. I couldn’t walk out of there any faster than my mom could,” said Vassilaki. “As we walked along, people were offering their hands, congratulations for running and I shook their hands.
“I never made any comments to anyone other than to thank them. Nothing else took place other than that.”
The Penticton RCMP acknowledge they are investigating an elections offence, but did not say which of the candidates they are looking into.
“The Penticton RCMP are currently investigating an offence under the Local Government Act, allegedly having been committed by a candidate. No further information is being released at this time,” said Const. James Grandy in an email response to the Western News.
“In my past experience, what happens is the RCMP take the case, collect the evidence and then present that to Crown counsel, who will determine whether they press charges or not,” said Darcus, adding that even if the complaint was made to ElectionsBC, it would typically be passed back to the local jurisdiction.
Section 166 of the Local Government Act sets out three possible penalties if a candidate is found guilty and convicted of an offence: a fine of up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to two years and disqualification from holding office for up to seven years (or a combination of the three).
“People stretched out their hand to shake it and I offered mine back. That’s as far as it went,” said Vassilaki.
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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