It’s a political party that has nearly three million dollars in total assets and has been around for seven years, but chances are you’ve never heard of it.
Their name is the Advocational International Democratic Party of British Columbia. Since their creation in 2006, they’ve received over four million dollars a fringe party that hasn’t run a candidate since 2005. They also were loaned over a million dollars between 2007 and 2011. And they’ve used the money to make investments to increase their assets.
At the end of 2012, the reported just over $2.8 million in total assets. For comparison, the Liberals reported $2.7 million, while the NDP reported $3.3 million.
Despite this, the Advocational Party has no online presence and little publicly available information on their platform. They needed to run at least two candidates in the May 14 provincial election to avoid being deregistered as a political party. While they did, those two candidates – Beverly Bird in Nechako Lakes and Johanna Zalsik of Shuswap – have done minimal campaigning.
What they’re doing is allowed under the B.C. Elections Act.
“Everything they’re doing is allowed,” says Nola Western, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer for Elections BC. “If the legislators decide they want to change what qualifies a political party, they can do that. We just enforce the rules.”
Under current rules, so long as a political party runs at least two candidates in every second provincial election, they can continue as legal entities and keep the tax benefits that go along with it. But some believe the Advocational Party is a perfect example of why these regulations should be re-examined.
“They should be accountable to the public,” says Bernard von Schulmann, a blogger who has been asking questions about the Advocational Party for years. “If we give them the benefit of tax receipts and all these things, don’t we as the public have a basic right to make them accountable as a non-profit?
“There’s a lot of ways you could use the concept of a political party to do a lot of nefarious things.”
A “multi-generational effort”
The Advocational Party is, in many ways, a descendant of the BC Patriot Party.
That party was created by Vernon doctor Andrew Hokhold in 2001, who says the idea came out of the blue when he was in rehab from an accident.
“A lot of the issues we have, people are focusing on policy related problems and not what I believe the root cause, which is a structural flaw,” he said in an interview with Global News.
The goal of the party, in Hokhold’s words, was to eventually “change Canada to a republic, where the Senate is filled by a merit-based lottery.”
(Johanna Zalcik, the party’s candidate in Shuswap, provided a document outlining the policy)
“We wanted to provide money, open up a federal party, and fund them,” he said.
Hokhold was the party’s only candidate in 2001, and in 2005 he and one other candidate ran, although they registered no expenses.
“We’re not about policy. It’s about structure, it’s a hard thing to sell…we thought the Patriot Party was a patriotic expression. But because of the Patriot act, the name thought it to be some sort of redneck thing.”
During that time, Hokhold and a small number of people donated to the party, with the party investing the money into precious metals.
“I was the principal architect of making money for the party, and invested it in precious metal stock. It was up to me, or not up to me,” he confirmed.
“I was quite motivated and wished to talk to people in the first two years, and then I realized I could spend hundreds of hours campaigning, but it doesn’t benefit the party. The brainchild was, let’s start investing. I started with $570, and it grew from there.”
Hokhold said that after the 2005 election, he no longer had time to devote to the party. He began to look for a successor party to carry on the cause.
“I had the interest in running, but the whole heart of the execution in that it’s not going to manifest itself in an election campaign. It’s about multi-generational change.
“The BC Liberals have raised about $10 millions to blow in a campaign. Ours is a generational issue. It should grow to an extent with money off the interest so to speak, and then it becomes self-sustaining.”
In 2006, the Advocational Party was registered with Elections BC. From 2006 to 2011 they were given $4,138,428.01 by Hokhold’s Patriot Party. They also received $1,194,405 in loans, including $122,500 from Hokhold.
The main person involved with the new party was Beverly Bird, who has been their financial officer since 2008. Hokhold said she was the ideal person to continue his cause.
“I’ve known Beverly since ’97, and her family since ’86. She has 11 siblings, all patients of mine.“This idea appeals to the passive observer, and she’s a passive observer.”
In 2009, Elections BC contracted a company to investigate the finances of the Patriot Party and Advocational Party. Hokhold filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court to block the investigation, arguing they were breaching privacy by not following proper procedure. Elections BC responded with a petition to the Supreme Court, demanding the Hokhold detail the loans made between him and the Patriot Party, and his relationship to Beverly Bird and others involved in the Advocational Party. In 2010, the case was dismissed and settled out of court.
When first reached, Elections BC said they do not investigate political parties. But Nola Western, Deputy Chief Electoral Officer for Elections BC, later confirmed they looked into the two party’s finances, but found nothing that contravened the Elections Act.
Party completely legal
Mark Epstein, a lawyer with Epstein Law, says there’s nothing stopping a political party from operating in this way.
“As long as a political party runs the required candidates… and follows the regulations under the BC elections act, nothing they do per se is illegal.”
The people behind the Patriot Party and the Advocational Party aren’t greatly benefiting from any tax deduction. According to Gabrielle Loren, a partner with Loren, Nancke & Company, individuals can only claim a maximum $650 deduction from donations over $1,275.01.
But she says the investments the party has made deserve larger scrutiny.
“The Party has a status of a not-for-profit so my concern here is who is benefiting from the income earned on the investments?
“When it comes to campaigns, there are candidate rules, but who’s governing the parties? It raises a whole bunch of questions where you go who’s governing this. I’m one to say no red tape, but someone has to look out from an accounting and general perspective.”
It’s something that Schulmann has been advocating for years on his blog, BC Iconoclast.
“In politics, if somebody’s in it, but makes sure there’s very little information about them, it seems a bit weird,” he said.
“What are the costs to start a web site? Why not make the best-sounding case for what they’re doing? Are they worried that too many people might join the party?”
The public generally assumes political parties will do two main things – attempt to be competitive in elections, and have membership that will keep them accountable and in the public eye. The Advocational Party, to date, has neither. After this month, they won’t have to run another two candidates until the provincial election scheduled for May 2021.
Hokhold says he is not a member of the Advocational Party or the Patriot Party, which is set to be de-registered after this election. But he’s optimistic that the plan he hatched over a decade ago will take root in Canada. Eventually.
“There is basically a party that’s not entirely, but basically, changing the structure. To include the little guy that can’t get up in the TV, and put them in the highest office in the land.
“It would attract a completely different political persona.”