Hate on the ballot

Convoys, conspiracies, and BC’s 2022 municipal elections

If you spent any time on BC’s far-right and related social media platforms in early October 2022, you would see breathless post after breathless post promoting the local “Freedom” candidates, asking for donations, sharing events. Networks of far-right groups debated platforms and crafted lists of acceptable candidates. “Freedom” slates were promoted widely and shared across the province, some far-right groups even made their own materials to promote unofficial “Freedom” slates. Far-right groups hosted candidates and attempted to hold debates. This was their time. The political tide was changing and it was finally time for the “awake” to take their place as leaders of the sheeple. The People’s Party of Canada and the whole alphabet of far-right groups like Action4Canada, WeUnify, Canadian Freedom Coalition, Vaccine Choice Canada, and CLEAR promoted their preferred far-right candidates at events and rallies. The hype was real—and equally worrying for everyone on the outside.  

Hate went to the ballot box in BC’s 2022 municipal elections, and it didn’t win—at least on paper.

No Hate on Council documented 165 mayoral, council, Electoral Area Director, Islands Trust Local Trust Area Trustee, and school board trustee candidates across 40 municipalities, regional districts, Islands Trust local trust areas, and school boards. Of 165 candidates, 21 won, an overall success rate of 12.7%.

CandidatesElectedSuccess rate
Regional district/Islands Trust200%
School trustee711115.5%
Vancouver Park Board600%

Hate won’t pay the bills

Hate brought in: $1,123,222.06
Hate spent: $1,402,476.55

see notes

There was much speculation around hate campaign funding. Based on data collected by Elections BC, the answer seems to be that “Freedom” candidates and parties were funded like much of the rest of the current far-right movement: by taking in donations bit by bit from sympathetic friends, family members, and supporters. Candidates funded their own campaigns and donated to other “Freedom” candidates. Familiar names in far-right movement do appear in financial disclosure statements, but few contributed anything close to the maximum allowed ($1250.00 in 2022). As one would expect, well-organized groups like ParentsVoice BC brought in more money than independent candidates primarily relying on social media exposure. In general, hate-associated candidates were more likely to raise less money than other candidates in their municipality. At best, hate association resulted in spectacularly mundane campaign funding.

(Serena reported no income and no expenditures.)

Case in point: VIVA Victoria

VIVA Victoria is linked to the People’s Party of Canada and the “Freedom” group WeUnify, along with the standard far-right transphobia. VIVA’s slate of seven candidates running for city council raised a total of $14,927.27, with one candidate raising an additional $1,622.02 on their own. Successful Victoria council candidates raised an average of $20,273.50 (median: $20,074.87) each. Only one successful council candidate raised less than $15,000. VIVA’s slate of school trustee candidates raised even less: with six candidates, the team raised only $4,550.00.

Hate still costs our families, friends, and communities the most

It’s very likely that some of the hate-associated candidates in municipal and school trustee elections sought visibility and legitimacy rather than a win. During the election period, the far right worked very hard to sanitize abhorrent opinions and ideologies through democratic debate, framing disinformation and dehumanization as reasonable and educated positions worthy of serious consideration. Hate speech appeared in ads and far-right conspiracies were discussed in debates. It’s likely that municipal and school trustee campaigns did attract people into far-right groups as their messages were promoted.

Free speech doesn’t extend to hate, discrimination, or violence, but municipal and school trustee elections saw hate excused under the banner of free speech and political neutrality.

At an election event held on Gabriola Island, School District 68 trustee candidate Tanner Scott brought graphic photos of gender-affirming surgeries prior to recovery. He wasn’t removed because he repeated transphobia—his entire platform was based on transphobic alt- and far-right memes around suicide rates. He was removed because he shoved photos into parents’ faces and caused a disturbance. Scott’s transphobic videos were widely shared among far-right groups and candidates like North Cowichan school trustee candidate and far-right influencer Serena “Freedombear” Winterburn, who jumped to his defense. (Winterburn finished second to last and then went to a rally with anti-Semitic Holocaust denier Chris Sky.) Despite being arrested at removed from a school trustee event by RCMP, Scott was still allowed to finish his campaign and remain on the ballot.

The electoral system prides itself on hearing all sides—Elections BC calls itself agnostic and has stated in the past that it has no interest in examining the politics of candidates—but this approach leaves candidates free to engage in hate speech, discriminate against people at events or in materials, and share dis/misinformation through their election platforms. Some opinions don’t deserve debate and topics like basic human rights are not up for debate.

Refusing to act on hate expressed during elections means that targets like LGBTQ2S+ people, BIPOC, and women are the ones who pay the real costs of unbridled hate with the erosion of their rights, safety, security, and ability to go about their day knowing that they are viewed as equal humans by the political leaders who made decisions that affect their lives.


1. Income and expenditures reported by Elections BC.

2. Some expenses may be counted twice if costs were incurred during both the campaign period and election period, so the difference between income and expenditures may be less significant if double-counted costs are removed.

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