Richard Lee recall campaign mum on progress

Volunteers keeping their cards close to their chests

The campaign to recall Burnaby North MLA Richard Lee has passed the half-way point, but volunteers hoping to oust the local Liberal are staying mum on how many signatures they’ve collected so far.

Jennifer Heighton, a Burnaby teacher and Coquitlam resident, would not release numbers on signatures or volunteers, as the campaigners don’t want to tip off Lee’s supporters.

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“We don’t want to give the other side any strategy on how far we’ve come along,” Heighton said. “We’ve got a significant number, but we want to keep it to ourselves right now.”

Heighton said the number of signatures and volunteers is growing. They must collect 16,494 signatures by June 15. After that, Elections B.C. has 42 days to verify the signatures, ensuring the people who signed were registered voters in the riding during the last provincial election. A successful campaign would trigger a by-election, and there’s nothing stopping Lee from running for the same seat he’s held since 2001.

Recall volunteers expressed a number of concerns with Lee: B.C.’s high rates of child poverty, education funding, the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion, and the scandal surrounding the Burnaby Hospital consultation committee that turned out to be a Liberal plan to attract voters.

Joanne Reid got involved because of her concerns about the pipeline.

“He’s my MLA, and he’s supposed to represent me in the legislature,” she said.

According to Reid, when she talked to Lee about the pipeline, he reiterated Christy Clark’s five conditions for B.C. to approve any major oil projects, and suggested Reid contact the Burnaby Lougheed MLA, since the pipeline was out of his riding.

Meanwhile, for Lee, it’s business as usual.

“I don’t worry too much,” he told the NOW. “I’m just doing my regular work. It’s up to the proponent to get the signatures.”

When asked about the Kinder Morgan pipeline, Lee said he knows there are some concerns with his constituents.

“My position is very clear,” he said, “none of those five conditions have been met, so I’m not in a position to support that without the five conditions satisfied, and neither (is) the province.”

A handful of Lee’s supporters has been watching the recall volunteers closely.

“It is a democratic process, so we’re just doing some observing from time to time,” said Chan. Chan, a semi-retired Liberal supporter who’s been active with the party’s riding association.

According to Chan, there are about eight people volunteering. They send observers to watch the recall volunteers when they’re in the community collecting signatures, and do their own stats on how many people sign the recall petition.  

The Burnaby North Liberal riding association is paying rent so Lee’s supporters have an office to work from.

As for the campaigners’ complaint that Lee is missing in action, Chan said the MLA is in Victoria Monday to Thursday and has a family like everyone else.

“So whether you like it or not, you won’t be able to see him most of the office hours,” Chan said. “If you want to see him, you have to go to Victoria. That’s the situation for every MLA, not just Richard Lee.”

Chan also said Lee works on committees to improve the efficiency of Burnaby Hospital, and he meets with Fraser Health.

“I do see him working really hard. I see him in many events and many, many meetings working hard for the communities,” Chan said. “The people who started the recall may see him differently, from a different vantage point.”

Not one recall campaign in B.C.’s history has been successful, apart from one case where the targeted MLA resigned before the process could run its course. Most campaigns failed to garner enough signatures, or failed at the signature-verification stage.  

For more information on the Richard Lee recall campaign, go to bccitizensrecall.com.

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