(OnePacificNews, October 16, 2018, Tuesday) — StarMetro yesterday published a front-page story about an alleged vote-buying scandal to “encourage” Metro Vancouver residents to vote ethnic Chinese candidates in the October 20 civic election.

Writing in Mandarin on WeChat, someone at the Canada Wenzhou Friendship Society had made a ‘transportation subsidy’ offer of $20 to boost the participation of Chinese voters. WeChat is a popular Chinese language social media.

The RCMP has been called in to investigate for vote buying as the offer came attached with a pitch for ethnic Chinese candidates such as Hong Guo, Peter Liu and Melissa Zhang in Richmond City, James Wang in Burnaby, and Fred Harding, Wai Young, Wei Qiao Zhang and Jason Xie in Vancouver. Mr Harding is a Mandarin-speaking candidate for the Vancouver mayoral position.

StarMetro carried two versions of its story.

The shorter version in the printed daily focused mostly on comments by Dermod Travis, executive director of watchdog Integrity BC, who warned against fraud and the erosion of trust in the electoral process.

The longer online version included an interview with Vancouver-born lawyer Will Tao who provided valuable context that was omitted from the print edition. While Mr Travis hit hard on the fraud angle, Mr Tao suggested that some allowance may be needed in viewing this story.

He left open the possibility that Chinese Canadians, especially recent migrants, could have acted out of confusion and ignorance rather than with criminal intent.

“Part of it may be a lack of knowledge of election laws on the part of the community,” Mr Tao was reported as saying.

He added that many newer immigrants did not grow up in a culture where media or perspectives were challenged. Most tend to accept published information at face value.

Chinese Canadians are known to have the lowest voter turnout among Metro Vancouver’s diverse communities, which the Wenzhou association may have been trying to address. Coming from China which does not have a participatory political culture, many recent arrivals do not understand or are disengaged from the Canadian democratic process.

Nevertheless, he said the allegations would be “troubling” if true, especially  if the monetary offer appealed to the target demographic — seniors and those voting for the first time.

Mr Tao also told StarMetro that politicians should try to engage the community. He urged the public not to draw “community stereotypes” from this story.