Saturday, March 04, 2006

More on the UBC Young Liberal scandal

TDH Strategies has been doing a good job in recent days of documenting the scandal brewing with the Young Liberal club at the University of British Columbia. This letter from Braeden Caley was passed on to me from a friend in B.C., I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if I post it here.

You can also get more background on this situation at TDH. For myself I’ll just say this kind of underhanded politics, lack of ethics and just downright asholiness is quite in line with my experience with the Young Liberal organization in B.C. There’s a culture of entitlement there, and it carries-on into the regular organization as well. They’re all about politics for politics’ sake and winning whatever the cost. Anything to win, no matter how undemocratic or underhanded. I really don’t think many of them came into politics with any firm convictions or principles, other than power.

Back during the leadership race (if you can call it that) I got a call from one of the Young Liberal/Youth for Martin organizers (same thing really). They wanted me to be president of a couple of newly created college campus clubs in my riding. But I’m not a student, I said. Doesn’t matter, they said. What would I have to do? Nothing, just call a couple of founding AGMs and pass some constitutions, we’ll send them to you. Where would I have these AGMs? Just have them in your apartment. I live in a small one bedroom. Doesn’t matter, they said, no one will show up. So, I said, you want me to by myself hold AGMs for non-existent campus clubs in my apartment for schools I’m not a student at and where I’m the only person in attendance? Yep, pretty much, then just send us the minutes to make it official.

You see, every additional campus club got to send delegates to the leadership convention. And every vote was needed, you know, just in case Sheila made a run somehow. They didn’t just want to win, they wanted to crush her. I’m no Sheila fan, but this race had been decided years ago. These kinds of tactics were stupid and unnecessary. What’s more, no local delegates would actually be elected by these clubs. The spots would be filled by delegates from Vancouver and Victoria, where enough spots weren’t available locally. Anyway, they ended up finding someone else to be their paper president, so I was off the hook. And a few Lower Mainland delegates did end up going to Toronto as youth delegates from these campus clubs.

I’ll save the story of how I was screwed out of attending the convention by these people and was yelled at and insulted over the phone by a senior organizer for another day. For now, here’s Braeden's letter. I think the only way to fight this kind of crap is publicity.


Dear Friends,

As some of you may know, the AGM for the UBC Young Liberals was called this week. The decision that was made to call this AGM in this manner invalidates the voting rights of 77 new members who signed up to be part of renewing the party and who support my potential campaign for President, which has been dealt a blow from which I'm not sure how to recover. If fact, the undemocratic manner in which events have played out has left many Young Liberals disillusioned and the entire process seems to be in shambles.
I feel that it's important for members to know what has taken place this week. Here's a timeline of what has transpired so far:

After first meeting with YLCBC President Coco Lefoka on Monday to express my interest in running, I sat down with Coco again on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming UBC AGM, this time accompanied by Taylor Briggs. Coco proposed that one of us be President and the other Vice President. Taylor pointed out that this was his last chance to be president, while I raised the point that I had been actively involved in the club much longer, and objected to trading away a vice presidency without speaking to the incumbent, Michael Crook. Coco also told us the AGM should be called Friday to avoid having this drag on, but we all agreed to meet the next day to discuss the situation further.

I tried contacting Jon Loewen, the UBC Membership chair, who is responsible for processing membership forms, to no avail. Members had been signing up over the past few weeks in preparation for the possibility that I might run. I also tried to contact Sana Shahram and Coco, but he refused to accept membership forms saying he believed it could somehow be a "conflict of interest." I ended up having to resort to dropping off 77 memberships at Jon Loewen's house before midnight on Tuesday, Feb 28th. To Jon's credit, I did eventually receive email acknowledgement of the forms and the attendant money.

Coco called me only about half an hour before the scheduled meeting on March 1 to abruptly cancel.

The AGM was called by President Sana Shahram initially for Wednesday, March 8th, 4-5:30pm; this call was made at 3:20 pm on March 1. Oddly, a second notice was sent out at 3:42 pm changing the meeting call to Thursday March 9th from 4-5:30pm - Presumably and unfortunately then, there was little interest in having a fair fight or any meaningful discussion beforehand. The goal was simply to stop me from running, as they saw that I had support that might out do their own. By calling the AGM for the 9th they invalidated the votes of nearly 80 new members to the club as well as 3 current executive members who will be unable to vote or run for re-election.

I have serious concerns about how a club that has no solid membership procedures or reliable list can conduct an AGM fairly and I have serious concerns about how we can have an AGM after two notices have now been sent out indicating two different days of voting (first Wednesday, then corrected to indicate Thursday). This problem has also arisen in the past and it has not been sufficiently addressed even after members of the executive have raised concerns a number of times over the past year.

In addition and probably most importantly, there is much talk in the party right now of renewal and debate and rebuilding. It is foolish to think that we can build an open and inclusive party where people have a reason to be excited if at every opportunity doors are slammed in the face of those who hope to make a difference. I think every measure should have been taken to enfranchise these new members. These are people who would like to get involved in our club and who share our values. The fact that their involvement and energy would be turned away with such little regard for the value of their voice and contribution saddens and concerns me.
It is certainly not a democratic move.

Much debate in our party has centred around how to increase the perceived value of a Liberal party membership. I think the best way to do this would be to stop thinking of our members as names and numbers on paper, and to start thinking of our members as real, living, breathing, thinking people with a valid contribution to make. This takes inclusion and enfranchisement. After all, a party isn't very much fun if everyone isn't invited.

At this point, I am really unsure what I intend to do next. As I think you know, I've worked my guts out for this party for the last half decade, and have attended UBC Young Liberal meetings since before I even set foot on this campus as a student. I've invested a great deal in democracy, including a campaign for School trustee in Richmond that earned me the support of nearly 7000 voters, and I have done a great deal to strengthen this party, and raise youth voices to their fullest potential. For examples of this, see Coco Lefoka's endorsement of me for the national Young Liberal of the Year Award (attached below).

All I would like is a chance to do more, but I am really not interested in participating in a process as unproductive and undemocratic as this one may be shaping up to be. I am not prepared to see myself, any of you or other friends, or any more enthusiastic and energetic Young Liberals get any more disillusioned by all of this. I like and have enjoyed working with Coco Lefoka and Sana Shahram. However, these sorts of undemocratic practices must come to an end if we want the Young Liberals to be respected, and if the party as a whole wants to win elections ever again. Please let me know where you think I should go from here.

Many thanks,


Braeden Caley

Young Liberal of the Year (Award Nomination by Coco Lefoka) 2005

Dear Awards Committee,

It is with great pride and honor that I nominate Braeden Caley for the YoungLiberal of the Year Award.
I have had the opportunity to work with Braeden for the past year since he joined the Young Liberals at UBC as a first year student. And I must tell you that never in my years as a Young Liberal have I known any individual with the idealism, leadership, intelligence, and integrity of Braeden. His achievements are notable and commendable given that he is only seventeen years of age.

Braeden's involvement in the young liberals began at a young age when he joined the Party when he was fourteen. When most his age were concerned with the other distractions Braeden enrolled himself in something I believe every citizen has a responsibility to enroll in, public service. Braeden's strong involvement with the Richmond riding association has won him the trust, respect and loyalty of leaders in the riding.

Braeden's first major achievement was playing an integral role in shaping public opinion through letter writing campaigns in local media that effectively articulated the Liberal Party of Canada's values and vision for Canada. Hisefforts contributed to the Party's defense during times when the media and public opinion were heavily critical of the Liberal Party. Braeden was at the cornerstone in raising public awareness of the Party's outstanding successes in public policy while in government, when the media was heavily focused on the sponsorship scandal and other issues.

Braeden has been integral to YLCBC's campaign on same sex marriage and missile defense. Earlier this month Braeden led and organized a very successful rally for same sex marriage held at the Vancouver Court House. Braeden established a network of community advocacy groups that worked in collaboration on the rally. The rally, which gained significant coverage from local ethnic media helped raise awareness to the debate being a Charter issue and dispelled the myths of the Conservative Party campaign on the issue.

Braeden is a true Liberal, a committed fighter to the pursuit of a society that is governed by the principles of equality, fairness and multiculturalism. His personal values and commitment to our cause are inspiring.
I feel the Young Liberal of the Year Award could go to no better qualified and deserving a person than Braeden Caley.

Letlotlo Coco Lefoka

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S.K. said...

Braeden can you file a complaint with the Student's Association of the University. I assume the conduct of clubs is under thier jurisdiction along with possibly the VP internal for the University. There must be a complaint mechanism to protect students against discrimination. If their election and membership processes are corrupt they could possibly be delisted as a club and lose thier office space on Campus.

You could also possibly take the 80 members you signed up and form your own young Liberal club, in effect, undermining the original. If the campus student government accepts your club as valid then you win. Let the other guys do whatever they want. If their practices are unfair no one will go to their meeetings. I guess they would still be sending delegates to AGM's provincially and federally but don't worry about them. Conduct yourself with integrity and others will see it and follow you.

I believe there is a strong push right now against this and other processes in the party are undemocratic or inaccessible to anyone at the grassroots level who wants to run for elected positions.
I believe it is the same machine that consistently exculdes, discourages, defeats women from running for elected positions as well. This is becoming very clear to Canadians.

Keep up the fight. Don't quit. Others are with you.

Scott Blurton said...

Yeah, I had some tough experiences with the UBC Young Liberals when I was UBC too. I put my take on it at

Scott Blurton

Anonymous said...

Hey, just wanted to say it's not exclusive to BC. When I was in the Young Liberals at Carleton University the Martin youth bought memberships for people in other clubs - and then bought them dinner so they would come to our meeting and send themselves as delegates to a convention instead of our VP and President. Why? Because our VP was the son of a Chretien cabinet minister.

This wasn't even for a leadership convention.

Turned me off the whole party. I still vote Liberal, but I'm not a member.

Anonymous said...

And we wpnder why we got 13 years of corruption, scandals and investigations.

Horny Toad

Nathan Hewitson said...

SB, there are differences in what is recognized as a student club by the university and a campus club by YLC. Just because someone starts their own student Liberal club in protest of an existing one does not mean it will actually be a club recognized by YLC. The two are quite different.

In any case, I have heard of these problems in BC, I am familiar with the Carlton fiasco and a couple of others around the country (including U of T and others) and I'm sickened. As an organization that is representative of the party we support and work hard to further, we need to not only ensure that we are better than the others, but the best we can be. This is reprehensible conduct and I feel that clubs found to be conducting such horrendous behaviour should have their charters revoked and be dismantled -- regardless of the 'political fallout.' Our last PM threw the 'good politics handbook' out the window in favour of doing the right thing and I respect him for it. We have to ensure that we -- as Young Liberals -- have that same kind of integrity and shut these unethical clubs down.

Anonymous said...

Coco is such a piece of shit. He will get what is coming for him.

In case your lost, you may want to go to the UBC Law School. They have a legal clinic that might be able to help you.

Braeden, don't stop! Keep fighting. You deserve better. The YLC deserves better.

Anonymous said...

I commend your honesty and integrity throughout this whole ordeal.

What a feeling of betrayal you must be enduring.

I may be on the "other side," but a proper democracy is important.

Good luck.

Jeff said...

It would be a mistake to think such behaviour is confined to the Young Libs. The Conservatives are far from immune, and I've heard of and seen some particularly nasty tactics by the Dippers. Which doesn't make it at all right, of course.

Anonymous said...

Dont think you are alone... the Ontario Young Liberals are as slimey, decietful and power hungry as these people. They have been going around overthrowing every organization in the province... it is a wonder there are still active young liberals in Ontario. Most organizations are puppets filled with camels. It does not matter if the organization wishes to try to work with these individuals, they will still overthrow you... Win at whatever the cost eh?? Its people like this that make me sick to my stomach, and its because of individuals like this that many people are disenfranchised with this party and politics. (Dont worry you are not alone in this fight) WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS MENTALITY AND BEHAVIOUR!!!

Tarkwell Robotico said...

BCer in Toronto,

Don't you think all of this would be solved if these people went out and got dates???

You don't go into an office looking for membership forms, you go in looking for whiskey and crushed ice.

Its not like they are fighting for the president of the Trekkie committee. Okay, that would be worth the fight.

Anonymous said...

Well, since you brought up the "Young Conservatives", do they even exist? Wouldn't that be the group the Conservative convention explicitly decided to leave behind? After reading about our young Liberals/government in training, is it any wonder the Conservatives have decided not to go down that road, or to have delegates from outside of riding associations?

Jeff said...

Anon, I specifically avoided saying "Young Conservatives" because I know there is no such group. There are young conservatives however, many cut from the same cloth.

And Chucker, aren't youth politics all about dates? The old saying goes you go to a Liberal convention to get laid, a Conservative convention to get drunk, and an NDP convention to debate policy.

In uni I was a student paper nerd though, not a youth politics nerd, although student papers have plenty of politics of their own.

Tarkwell Robotico said...


I love that quote!

In university, I was "too cool" for politics. Then, my first full time paycheque came, I saw my taxes and said: o, I's gotta do somethin' about this.

So here I was, thinking that I'd get action if I went to the Fellini retrospective, when I should have joined the McGill Liberals and said, "the Charter is very important to me." Boom! Three dates in less than a minute!

Anonymous said...

As a current member of the Young Liberals, I'd just like to say that I feel totally ashamed of what's happening right now. This was always the one party that I felt truly represented what I believe in. On one side of us, we have the Conservative Party, with no visible youth wing and policies that will lead to the destruction of social justice in our country, while on the other, the Young New Democrats promote policies that will destroy our country's proud economy and will leave us buried under their unionized friends.

But NOW, I feel that certain organizations within the party have gotten so corrupt that I don't know if I feel so comfortable here either. I hope the National Young Liberal leaders can somehow straighten Coco out, and meanwhile I'd just like to add my voice of support to Braeden. DON'T GIVE UP! PEOPLE ARE NOTICING!

S.K. said...


I don't get it how can you throw out the "good politics handbook" and do the right thing. And I believe Mr. Martin was quite capable of overtaking election processes at the local level.

We used to have a young Liberal club at the University where I'm from, but there isn't one lsited onthe campus website anymore.

Need I say more!

Budd Campbell said...

Wasn't Coco Lefoka one of the "streeters" who appeared in TV ads for the national Liberal Party during the recent election?

Anonymous said...

How come when I was a Young Liberal, we used to complain about the tactics of people who "stacked" meetings, but now we complain about people who stop people from "stacking meetings".

Why is Braeden so pure about this, when really he would be depriving the active Young Liberals from choosing their president, and, instead, trying to initiate a hostile takeover with instants?

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm sorry, this is disgusting.

Jeff said...


I think there's a wide gap between a "hostile takeover" and a membership drive/(executive) elecion campaign. Everything I've seen indicates Braeden was operating openly, is a long-term and active Liberal, and the people he has signed up genuinely want to get involved.

Can an incumbent executive not be challenged? They haven't been given lifetime appointments. Is a new member somehow less worthy than someone who has been a member for a year or two?

We need open and transperant processes with the rules clear to all and the playing field level. As long as everyone knows what everyone is doing then let the person who signs up the most members and/or gains the support do the most existing memebrs win. That's democracy.