Surrey First mayoral candidate Tom Gill and his campaign manager insist they are running a clean campaign despite claims that some who support him are up to no good.
Gill says he would “absolutely denounce it” if people who support his slate’s campaign engaged in unethical or illegal practises.
“We are trying to keep a very high level campaign and keep it very respectful,” Gill told the Now-Leader on Friday. “I think when you are looking at a professional such as myself there is no time for that kind of stuff in my campaign and I want to assure everybody that we want to make these positive changes in Surrey.”
Wake Up Surrey leader Sukhi Sandhu, whose anti-crime community group recently alerted the RCMP to allegations of election fraud involving Surrey’s South Asian community, has come out swinging with a Facebook post saying he has “no other option” but to “publicly name the campaign igniting all these flames in our community and continually attacking Wake Up Surrey.
“Shame on Tom Gill supporters for acting in this disrespectful manner and now attempting to misuse our gurdwaras. In past few weeks, I have also repeatedly messaged Tom to have his goons stop this nonsense. But it still continues!”
The RCMP launched its investigation after receiving Wake Up Surrey’s letter of complaint alleging “fraudulent use of absentee ballots” and “buying votes” and Surrey’s Chief Election Officer Anthony Cappuccinello Iraci also shared concerns about mail ballot registration “irregularities” with police.
Corporal Elenore Sturko said Friday investigators are “hoping to have more information to share with the public soon.”
Asked straight up Friday if he is accusing Gill of engaging in election fraud activity, Sandhu did not accuse him personally.
“I would say some of his supporters, yes,” Sandhu said. “I think we need to come clean, it was some of his supporters.”
He told the Now-Leader on Friday that a plan has been “connived” in Surrey’s South Asian community, aimed at Sikh temple-goers. He says the plan is to discredit Wake Up Surrey and claim it has damaged the Sikh community’s reputation by lodging its complaint about alleged election-related fraud.
“The community should not be blamed, we’re not blaming the community. This is not a mainstream issue, this is something that was developed and planned within our community and we’ve got to own up to it,” Sandhu said.
“I think most members of our South Asian community are outraged. They are glad that finally someone is stepping up and calling a spade a spade. They want us to be good citizens of the city and they don’t want this corruption any more.”
Asked for some insight into why he’s the lucky guy drawing all this attention, Gill chuckled at the question. He believes he’s the target of a smear campaign.
“The last six months I’ve been attacked several times that you’re very well aware of so, you know what, I just think it’s a continuance of those issues that we’ve faced with over the last several months, so the answer is yes.”
Sandhu said he has always considered himself “a friend of Tom’s” and if anyone launched a smear campaign against the politician, he added, “I would be the first person to denounce that and come to his defence.”
But he also had this to say: “Let’s take this behaviour of his supporters with a greater seriousness.”
In response to Sandhu’s Facebook post, Gill said, “I’m obviously disappointed. I’m taking the high road; in any campaign you have individuals that you can and can’t give direction to.
“I think that there are individuals out there that use their own discretion and that’s unfortunate but certainly that’s not the direction of the campaign,” Gill said. “It’s unfortunate that Sukhi would make any such comments because you know that’s not the direction of the campaign, we’ve been keeping it at a very professional level and we’re going to continue to keep it at a professional level.”
Brad Zubyk, campaign manager for Surrey First, said he’s “very proud of this campaign because it’s been absolutely policy based.” He said a memo was sent out to Surrey First supporters ahead of advance polling to remind them of the rules, and the “difference between enthusiastically persuading someone and you know, going over the line.
”I don’t do campaigns like that, I never would,” Zubyk said. “I wouldn’t stand for it, quite frankly. If I saw that they’d be out on their ass.
“If there’s people trying to skirt the rules, ” he said, “go after them.”
If Surrey First were doing something untoward, Zubyk said, “I wouldn’t stand for it and I’d quit the campaign. I would quit tomorrow if there was something like that in this campaign that made me uncomfortable and was unethical. I’ve been in this too long to blow up my reputation on something that’s not abiding by the law or by the rules.”
Meantime, Sandhu said candidates are responsible for the behaviour of their supporters.
“Leadership starts under someone’s watch,” he said. “Some of his campaign volunteers are acting like hooligans, he rightly has to be concerned and put an end to it. I’ve talked, I’ve phoned him, I’ve messaged him, we’ve tried to calmly tell him over the last few weeks that Tom, this is dangerous, this is wrong, it is unethical, it is damaging our community.”
To this, Gill says, “You can’t always take responsibility for every person that is on the campaign.”
“You can’t be held accountable for someone’s emotions and reactions.
“I’m not sure what’s going on in the community but certainly I am concerned and if he’s got some concerns with people that are working on my campaign I think that obviously that’s a concern, but it’s not something that I’ve been responsible for,” Gill said. “There’s hundreds of people that are involved in this campaign, not just the campaign manager and Tom Gill.”
But Sandhu doesn’t buy it.
“At the end of the day, a candidate is responsible for the conduct of his campaign.”