UPDATE: 3:38 p.m.
Abbotsford ParentsFIRST candidate Jared White says the slate will be rebranding before they put out election campaign materials, such as signage.
White updated The News on the matter immediately prior to deadline. More information to come on that in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, City of Abbotsford spokesperson Alex Mitchell has released information on the deliberations over the new school trustee slate.
“Abbotsford’s Chief Election Officer made the determination that these electoral organizational names were acceptable due to the fact that AbbotsfordFIRST is running candidates for Abbotsford City Council, while Abbotsford ParentsFIRST is running a candidate for School Trustee,” Mitchell said in a statement.
“The list of candidates and their electoral organizations was declared on September 14th 2018, at which time, the names were open for challenge. Abbotsford’s Chief Election Officer did not receive any challenges within the challenge period related to the names submitted, and as such, the names of the electoral candidates stand.”
The challenge period runs for four days after the nomination period, which ended when the list of candidates and electoral organizations was declared.
Abbotsford’s first school trustee slate looks a lot like Abbotsford’s first city council slate — if only in name.
AbbotsfordFIRST president Markus Delves said the formation of Abbotsford ParentsFIRST, a newly formed slate running a single candidate for school board, was a “complete surprise to me” when the finalized list of candidates was declared on Sept. 14. He added he is hoping to take the issue to the city’s chief election officer.
On the finalized list, five candidates appear under the AbbotsfordFIRST banner for city council in the slate’s second ever municipal election. On the list of school board nominees, one candidate, Jared White, appeared with Abbotsford ParentsFIRST as the elector organization endorsing his candidacy.
“I don’t know this individual; I don’t know any of the members of this organization,” Delves said.
He said he had “no knowledge” of Abbotsford ParentsFIRST’s platforms, but expressed some concern that voters would see the Abbotsford ParentsFIRST name and associate it with AbbotsfordFIRST.
White agreed the name and styling of the names were similar, but said it was “purely coincidental.”
“It was originally simply ‘Parents First,’ and as we were firming up the name, someone suggested ‘hey, let’s do Abbotsford ParentsFIRST,’” White said. “It’s not connected [to AbbotsfordFIRST] at all.”
He said there was no intention to confuse voters regarding the name, adding that he was aware of AbbotsfordFIRST. But he said the idea for the styling of Abbotsford ParentsFIRST came from another organization he had created a logo with, in which the first word was lowercase and the second word all uppercase.
“So when I was looking at ParentsFIRST, I did that, and literally, I didn’t even realize until afterwards that that was how [AbbotsfordFIRST] did theirs.”
Delves said AbbotsfordFIRST officials brought the matter to Bill Flitton, Abbotsford’s chief election officer, adding that they were told the Abbotsford ParentsFIRST paperwork checked out, including the 50 signatures necessary to form a slate.
According to B.C.’s Local Government Act s. 93, the name of an elector organization must not be, “in the opinion of the chief election officer, so similar to the name, abbreviation or acronym of another elector organization … as to be confusing to the electors.”
Delves said he would be pursuing the matter further with the chief election officer, particularly looking at section 93.
“I think it is confusing to voters, and I think that’s a reasonable basis to make a claim under. … People in the public have asked me: ‘is this your school trustee organization?’” Delves said.
But it’s still unclear whether anything can be changed. After Sept. 21 at 4 p.m., the 29th day before the election, the candidates and endorsements are effectively set in stone. Candidates themselves cannot withdraw their endorsements after that point, nor can a slate withdraw the endorsement.
An elector, another candidate or the chief election officer can challenge an elector organization’s endorsement of a candidate, but there’s a deadline for such an action. A challenge must be taken with a B.C. provincial court four days after the nomination period, which ended on Sept. 14.
Flitton did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.