Update: Since this article was written, Hollyhock has now deleted the tweet from their account- interesting…
In January, 2012 I had the pleasure of staying at Hollyhock, a charity owned training resort on Cortes Island BC; one of the most beautiful places on the planet. Hollyhock is a contentious place; some view it as (literally) magical, others see a dark side. My month there was dual purpose- both to get some rest and relaxation, and to try and dig through the myths.
What I’ve learned since then has astounded me, the stench of corruption is hard to miss. Hollyhock is both a New Age and activist training centre- their organizers and teaching staff has included not one, but two fake Pulitzer Prize nominees. Other instructors have included a white plastic shaman selling “indigenous knowledge” for $525 per head. I’ve read complaints to the local government about the polution coming from their septic tank system. But more important, there are many indications Hollyhock may be breaking CRA rules for partisan political support.
Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has a close relationship with the charity, and was once on the board at Hollyhock Farms Ltd. Hollyhock’s main supporter TIDES Canada is also close to the mayor- their leadership have personally contributed to Robertson’s campaigns, TIDES USA raised the property value of the mayor’s Cortes Island home by purchasing 150 acres next-door. But, until yesterday, there has been no smoking gun about Hollyhock’s political activities.
The Canada Revenue Agency rules about partisanship are incredibly simple, saying “charity may not take part in an illegal activity or a partisan political activity”. This means that it is completely forbidden to promote a candidate or political party- either during, or outside of an election. The CRA defines partisan activist as “one that involves direct or indirect support of, or opposition to, any political party or candidate for public office”.
Ultimately, it will have to be left to the CRA to decide if Hollyhock has contravened partisanship rules- but, the message they sent on Twitter yesterday comes across as outwardly blatant:
VISION Vancouver is mayor Gregor Robertson’s municipal political party, Hollyhock’s link directs their followers to VISION’s website. The first thing one sees when clicking this link is a promotion to vote for Gregor Robertson and his party:
If you’re observant, you may have already noticed the screenshot includes the link’s URL, and that it contains an identifier called “recruiter_id”. VISION hosts their website with NationBuilder.com, a US website for managing political campaigns connected to the Democratic Party (this site previously covered how NationBuilder was used to take funds by the people who co-opted Idle No More).
A NationBuilder Recruiter ID is used to track the activities of an organization’s close partners who promote their campaigns- in this case the Recruiter ID is number 805 (a very low number). Without VISION’s cooperation (or a warrant) there’s no way to determine who Recruiter 805 is, but it just may be the smoking gun- does it belong to Hollyhock, or perhaps one of their directors?
If there was ever a clear and easily defined argument for why Hollyhock needs to be investigated for their political activities, this must be it. There’s no ambiguity in the CRA’s rules, partisan activity is absolutely forbidden- linking to a page asking people to pledge to vote, featuring a graphic saying “Go forward with VISION” and promoting the mayor is clearly in violation. Using their powers, the CRA could identify who “Recruiter 805” is too- the public needs to know.
Anyone in Canada can file a complaint, they’re handled by the CRA’s Complaince Directorate– I’ll be filing mine today. If you’d also like to see the CRA get to the bottom of this, you can submit your complaint to [email protected] They’re registered with the CRA as the Hollyhock Leadership Institute.
It’s time to clear things up…