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British Columbia BC Liberals accused of placing misleading ads in Chinese-language newspapers

B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark makes a campaign stop in Surrey, B.C., Sunday, May 7, 2017.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The BC Liberals are taking advantage of some Chinese voters' limited grasp of English to run attack ads generating fear about the NDP's record on cannabis, Chinese media analysts say.

The BC Liberals recently posted ads in Chinese-language newspapers, saying NDP candidates James Wang and Anne Kang voted to support selling pot in liquor stores, and that Chak Au supported growing marijuana near a school. The mayors of Burnaby and Richmond have both said the ads attacking their councillors-turned-candidates are not accurate.

However, the Liberals told The Globe the party stands by the ads. The party maintains that while Mr. Wang and Ms. Kang worked as councillors in Burnaby, they voted to support pot sales in liquor stores. Mr. Au was on the Richmond planning committee when a licensed medical marijuana-growing facility was unanimously approved.

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Guo Ding, a columnist in the Chinese-language media, said the Liberals' ads aren't factual, and the party should not mislead Chinese voters who have limited resources to facts due to language barriers.

"[Chinese immigrants] don't have English channels to get English media's information," Mr. Ding said. "They cannot compare to see which one is wrong and which one is right … that's why the bad ads only target the Chinese community. They never go to the English media.

"It's a two-language system. I don't think only the Liberals do that; I think other political parties do the same thing."

Kenny Chiu, a current-affairs commentator in the Chinese community, said the Liberals are playing a "fear game" by distributing the ads, since marijuana is culturally considered "poisonous material" in the Chinese community.

A news release sent Sunday by the Liberals stated that Mr. Au, during a press conference last week, said the NDP has its "blind spots" and that NDP Leader John Horgan promised him he could vote against the party on certain issues.

The statement alleges Mr. Au said at the event:

"When I met with John Horgan, he answered my question and agreed to give me this space to, on sensitive issues, vote according to my conscience. So why would I not give it a try [run for NDP]?"

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Mr. Au told The Globe on Sunday that the "blind spots" he referred to is a general concept, meaning that sometimes the parties cannot hear the different voices outside of their usual supporters. Mr. Au admitted that if he doesn't agree with the NDP on certain issues, he would vote against the party's position. He said voting according to someone's conscience isn't special in Canadian political history.

Since the election started, the Liberals' Richmond North Centre candidate, Teresa Wat, has described the decade ruled by the NDP from 1991 to 2000 as a "10-year catastrophe." For the Chinese, the term usually refers to the 10-year period of the Cultural Revolution, the political upheaval and brutal class struggle that took place in China from 1966 to 1976.

Mr. Ding thinks the term used by Ms. Wat will affect Chinese-Canadians and prevent them from making objective voting decisions. "If we choose to use this [term], it will [prompt] people to relate to the very bad experiences in China. I think it's not good for the new immigrants to learn the politics."

Mr. Chiu said comparing the decade reigned by the BC NDP to the Cultural Revolution is a buried message sent by the Liberals.

"[The term] has a background. It refers to the 10 years that millions upon millions of Chinese were involved in the Communist Party's political struggles and lost their lives," said Mr. Chiu. "[But] I think the Liberals made a legitimate point in pointing to the challenges that British Columbia faced at the end of the 10 years … it was quite concerning how the NDP was not able to protect British Columbia from downturn."

A representative from Ms. Wat's campaign said that Ms. Wat was busy and couldn't provide an interview.

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