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B.C. NDP screening leadership candidates to head off Internet embarrassments Add to ...

Have you left a cringe-inducing impression on YouTube? Ever made intemperate remarks on a blog? Would all your tweets bear public scrutiny? B.C. NDP leadership hopefuls must hand over the keys to their social media accounts - their usernames and passwords - in a confidential questionnaire as the party aims to head off any e-embarrassments.

The 23-question disclosure statement asks potential candidates to bare any legal troubles, past political affiliations or disagreements with party policy - any incidents that could be considered politically controversial.

But it is the sweeping demands for access to any social-media activity that has taken some candidates aback.

The New Democratic Party's executive is asking each candidate:

"Do you currently author or have you previously authored a blog? Please send all previous or existing blogs. Do you have a personal website or belong to any social networking sites such as Facebook? Do you have a Twitter account? Are there any photos or videos of you on YouTube or similar sites? Are there any photos or comments about you or by you on someone else's sites?"

The party also is demanding access to material that would-be candidates have posted in private forums.

"Do any of your social-media sites have material 'behind' privacy settings? Please provide details including site URL and your username and password for all social networking sites to which you belong."

The 17-page disclosure allows the party executive the right to reject any candidate they deem unfit. It asks sweeping, cover-all-bases questions such as: "Is there any matter in which you were/are involved which has/may result in an accusation of impropriety or illegality, or an incident which if disclosed could cause embarrassment to you or the BC New Democratic Party?"

Michael Roy, a spokesman for the party, would not comment on the confidential questionnaire. Shortly after inquiries to the NDP were made by The Globe and Mail, candidates received a terse e-mail from the party brass complaining about the leak.

To date, none of the six declared candidates has been approved by the party. They must hand over a $15,000 non-refundable deposit and a list of signatures from at least 250 party members with representation from of at least six of the province's eight regions.

Dana Larsen, the marijuana reform activist who had to step down as a federal NDP candidate in 2008 over his association with illegal drugs, called the questionnaire intrusive. Mr. Larsen has left a wide footprint in social media like YouTube, and is featured consuming drugs in videos for Pot TV's Weedy Wednesday Smoke Fest with Dana Larsen.

"It seems to me the party executive is overstepping their bounds," he said. However, he intends to complete the screening documents. "Everyone has got things in the past that might be embarrassing," he said. "I feel I qualify as a candidate."

Mr. Larsen was just one of three candidates the federal NDP shed during the 2008 campaign because of Internet-based embarrassments. In the 2009 B.C. election, the provincial NDP spent $50,000 upgrading its vetting process for candidates as a result of the federal lessons learned, but candidate Ray Lam's racy Facebook photos eluded the net and he had to step down.

Adrian Dix, a two-term NDP MLA considered a front-runner in the race, said he regards everything he's posted on the Internet as part of the public record. "The message on social media is, much of it is public domain, you have to understand that what you say can be reported later," he said. "I don't have any real issues with that."

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