With just one week left before the provincial election, the BC NDP accused Kootenay East BC Liberal candidate Tom Shypitka of a host of offences including tax evasion.
Court documents published by the NDP on Monday indicate Shypitka’s Cranbrook sports bar called Finnegan’s Wake Sports Pub & Grill failed to pay more than $147,000 in property tax, utility bills and GST over a seven-year period leading up to its closure in 2011.
The NDP stated “Court records filed in connection with Shypitka’s default on two mortgages totalling $411,000 show that the BC Liberal candidate failed to pay $98,293 in utility bills and property taxes to the City of Cranbrook, as well as $49,227 in GST.”
The NDP also published a copy of a contravention notice from the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, which showed that the sports bar received at least nine liquor licensing infractions for not checking IDs and serving drinks after hours.
“Under Mr. Shypitka’s management the bar was described by the Liquor Control Branch as a ‘continuing problem,’” said the statement.
The NDP also accused Shypitka of cheating a local man out of the payment of two pool tables and then counter suing him when he tried to recover the money.
He was also accused of being lenient on drunk driving. The NDP included a 2012 Facebook post where Shypitka called a crackdown on drinking and driving “extreme” and having “gone too far.”
“The whole drunk driving pendulum that I have experienced in the 30 years I was in hospitality is now at the highest point of extreme and this is certainly proof of that,” he wrote in a statement about the hospitality industry. “When is this BC government going to realize that it has gone too far.”
Shypitka responded to the allegations in a statement released to the Cranbrook Daily Townsman where he defended his business practices and expressed his contempt for Kootenay East NDP contender Randal Macnair.
“Sometimes a business will suffer set backs or insolvencies,” Shypitka wrote to the Townsman. “When this happens innocent people can be negatively affected. As a business person this perhaps is the most regrettable thing that can happen, and my family and I have felt that regret.”
“I have been associated with many successful businesses over the years employing thousands of people.”
“I have always been transparent to the BC Liberals and the community as well. This isn’t a secret to most people.”
Regarding Macnair, Shypitka wrote “It is no surprise that my opponent has decided to stoop this low in this last week of the campaign. Apparently he will do anything to win.”
Shypitka went on to condemn Macnair for his dealings with former U.S. Senator Max Baucus. When Macnair was Mayor of Fernie, Baucus made a controversial visit to the community to object to a proposed coal mine in the Flathead but was met with a sizable crowd of protestors and received a haranguing from then MLA Bill Bennett for his trouble.
Shypitka challenged Macnair’s insistence that he had nothing to do with the visit.
“… I suggest you ask him about his lie that he had nothing to do with Senator Baucus coming to Fernie,” said Shypitka in a statement to The Free Press. “There is Montana newspaper coverage stating clearly that Mayor Randal Macnair was “hosting” the Senator. Despite that, he has denied any involvement.”
“He absolutely had a meeting with Baucus organized that day,” said Shypitka of the 2005 visit. “I know all of this because a councillor at the time told me. I also know the woman whose car (Macnair) jumped into that day so he could escape the crowd.”
In a statement sent to the Free Press, Macnair said his opponent should stand by his business record.
“A candidate who runs specifically on his record as a business person must recognize that in politics they will be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “The people of Kootenay East deserve to have the facts when they make decisions regarding their elected officials. If you run on your record as a small business person you must run on that record, failures, warts and all.”
Shypitka claimed that he’d been given many opportunities to attack his opponents on a personal level but has refrained from doing so. Macnair challenged that assertion.
“This is simply not true,” said Macnair. “In the Sparwood forum he attacked me personally with something that was blatantly untrue. So blatantly in fact that the moderator gave me the only rebuttal of the evening to respond to my opponent’s alternate facts.”
“Following the Jaffray forum, no fewer than five members of the audience told me that the BC Liberal campaign was handing out questions for people to read,” he continued. “At least one of these questions was based on a lie and was directed at me. Handing out questions is one thing but duping honest, innocent people into speaking untruth is another.”
Macnair said he was upset by the actions at all-candidates forums but that this was Shypitka’s “way of doing things.” He also included a wider critique of the Liberals.
“The bigger issue is the business acumen and honesty of the BC Liberals and their candidates,” he said. “Their willingness to raid the coffers of BC Hydro and ICBC to pretend to balance their budgets has created a dangerous financial situation. The BC Liberals failures to run our businesses have increased suffering for regular people.”