#CQvotes2018: Coquitlam candidate says city mail package was misleading

A Coquitlam council candidate is upset with the recent mail-out of election brochures by the city because he said it made it look like he had withdrawn from the race.

Paul Lambert chose not to purchase the service because of the cost but when it landed on his doorstep, he was upset, saying the city didn’t make it clear he and eight other candidates had not participated.

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The mail-out had a stark front that only said “City of Coquitlam 2018 General Local Election Candidate Brochures.” Lambert claimed the labelling gave the impression the bag contained flyers for all mayoral, council and school trustee candidates, causing several supporters to call him asking if he had withdrawn.

“It just looks like you’re not running,” said Lambert. “There’s not a single sentence anywhere that says there’s not all the candidates there, and that’s a huge mistake. It could have a huge impact on the election, almost a total impact. I’m a reasonable guy, but this is serious. Perception is reality,” he told The Tri-City News.

Information on the mail-out, which the city has been doing every election since 2005, was included in the city’s nomination package, which was available to anyone interested in running for office since July 27.

In an email to The Tri-City News, Sean O’Melinn, Coquitlam’s legislative services manager and deputy chief election officer, pointed out that package included a city brochure listing all the candidates and providing the coquitlam.ca/vote website as a place to go for more information on all of the candidates.

The mail-out went to all Coquitlam homes, even ones in which residents have opted out of receiving unaddressed mail because the mail-out is considered government mail. The city also gets a preferential rate from Canada Post.

The nomination package estimated the cost for a mail-out of 20 brochures would be $1,917 per candidate. As it turned out, 20 brochures for mayoral, council and school trustee candidates were distributed. Nine chose not to participate, including six council candidates: Lambert, Ian Soutar, Devan Robertson, Massimo Mandarino, Geoff Hunt and Nicola Spurling. (Candidates Robert Mazzarolo and Darryl Stickler submitted a joint brochure). All those running for reelection participated.

“It’s unbelievably biased to incumbents,” said Lambert.

To be included ,the candidates were required to provide 53,000 one-page, letter-sized brochures to the printers by Sept. 18, four days after the close of nominations. Lambert said the lowest quotes he received were between $6,000 and $7,000. Since he didn’t decide to run for office until August, there wasn’t enough time to raise the money, he said, especially with new rules limiting a candidate’s personal contribution to $2,400.

Lambert elected to get 30,000 half-page brochures printed, which he said “cut the costs down enormously.” He and his volunteers delivered them to single-family homes and townhouses. His goal was to have 10,000 delivered by the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, with another 10,000 each over the last two weeks.

If he gets elected, Lambert said he would ask council to require the package clearly state not all candidate brochures are included. If he doesn’t get elected, he said he would start a petition calling for the change the next day.

“I’m not going to let it go,” Lambert vowed. “It has to be clear to voters. The city is sending out partisan information and unless they [say which candidates aren’t included] clearly it can skew the election.”

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