Records included in this subseries relate to a provincial court case, known as Friesen v. Hammell, brought against three NDP MLA’s, Premier Glen Clark, and the NDP itself, in which the respondents were accused of electoral fraud. The case took place from late 1996, moving through various appeals until August 2000, when it was finally overturned and the original respondents were acquitted.
Shortly before the dropping of the writ for the May 28, 1996 provincial election in British Columbia, then Minister of Finance Elizabeth Cull tabled a pre-election balanced budget in the legislature, on which incumbent NDP candidate Glen Clark campaigned, claiming it was an example of the NDP’s sound fiscal management. While the NDP narrowly lost the popular vote with 39.45% to the Liberal’s 41.82%, the party succeeded in securing 39 seats to the Liberal’s 33, and Glen Clark renewed his mandate as Premier. Shortly after the election however, newly appointed Finance Minister Andrew Petter completed a budgetary review, and concluded that in fact, the budget for 1996 would not be balanced, contradicting the projections that Cull had tabled before the election for the 1995/96 and 1996/97 budgets. This sparked public controversy, and the media began referring to the episode as the “Fudge-it Budget” scandal. Following this, David Stockell, a resident of Kelowna, founded a group called HELP BC (an acronym for Help Eradicate Lying Politicians) with the intention of launching a court case against the Clark and the New Democratic Party, claiming the party had defrauded voters. The group received funding for its case from the National Citizen’s Coalition (NCC), a conservative lobby group with a strong base in Alberta, and political support from the BC Liberals and others. David Stockell had in fact voted Liberal in the 1996 election and therefore could not name himself as a petitioner in the court case; instead, HELP BC began an outreach campaign to ask members of the public who had voted for the NDP on the basis of its budgetary promises to step forward as petitioners. Three British Columbians from different ridings were identified: Leonard Friesen of the Surrey Green Timbers riding, Holly Kuzenko of New Westminster, and Mildred Umbarger of Rossland Trail. The initial court case was brought forward as a class proceeding, against not only the MLA’s of each riding (Sue Hammell of Surrey Green Timbers, Graeme Bowbrick of New Westminster, and Ed Conroy of Rossland Trail), but also all electoral district MLA’s, electoral officers, Glen Clark, and the NDP itself. The trial began at the end of 1996, and proceeded through various appeals, with the NDP and other respondents eventually being dismissed from the proceedings except for the three MLA’s initially named – though in January 1999, the BC Court of Appeals ruled that the case could go to full trial in the British Columbia Supreme Court. In August of 2000 however, the case was finally thrown out, and the respondents acquitted.
Records include court documents, drafts and research notes, correspondence, media clippings and transcripts, opinion polls, and other related materials.