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Drilling Down BC Campaign Finance Numbers

Lululemon's Chip Wilson, lobbyist Patrick Kinsella and Blue Jays exec among Lib donors.

By Bob Mackin, 21 Aug 2013, TheTyee.ca

Premier Christy Clark

Clark's Liberals earned $8.5 million in corporate donations, shy of the NDP's $9.7 million. Photo by David P. Ball.

Elections BC released the latest campaign finance data this week, numbers that paint a picture of how the 2013 provincial election campaign was funded.

The big picture shows that the NDP came out ahead thanks in part to a jump in corporate donations. They reported $9.7 million income to Elections BC compared to the Liberals' $8.5 million.

Unions still remained big donors for the NDP, accounting for one-quarter of the money raised, while the Liberals enjoyed large gifts from big companies like Teck Resources and Goldcorp, which combined gave $422,000.

However, more modest donations, especially those raised at the riding level, are revealing as well. Here's how some of those numbers break down.

Ad men with close ties to Liberals

When Premier Christy Clark won the province but lost her own riding on May 14, her Vancouver-Point Grey campaign was relying heavily on party headquarters.

Elections BC campaign finance disclosures published Aug. 19 show Clark received $107,152 from the central campaign. Her only donation was $3,200 from Blast Radius Inc., a Yaletown-based digital advertising agency. Its website boasts clients like Lululemon Athletica, Starbucks and Nike.

On June 6, the day before Clark announced her cabinet, the government's communications and public engagement department advertised for ad agencies, polling firms and web companies interested in being pre-qualified for government assignments for the next two years. Thirty-three applied and 23 were accepted by the end of July. One of them was Blast Radius.

Another was FCV Technologies, which donated $2,500 to the party.

Hogan Millar Media was also on the list of approved companies. Although it doesn't show up in the Elections BC database as having donated to any political party, Hogan Millar's work with Clark and the Liberals is well known.

Hogan Millar's 'Weathervane' television ad (30 seconds of Adrian Dix's head spinning on a weathervane) helped turn the tide in favour of the Liberals on the last weekend of the campaign. Partner Don Millar's Reception Point consultancy was paid $149,007 for advising the premier's office during the year leading up to the election.

New Education Minister Peter Fassbender is an adman-turned-politician whose campaign spent almost $200,000 -- nearly double Clark's -- to dump NDP incumbent Jagrup Brar in the Surrey-Fleetwood swing riding.

Fassbender's budget included $154,544.30 transferred from Liberal headquarters and $38,180.60 in donations.

One of those was for $2,500 from 971261 Alberta Ltd., a numbered company controlled by Frank Palmer, CEO of the DDB Canada ad agency.

DDB was one of six companies on the previous list of approved ad agencies and remains on the new one. In 2012-2013, DDB billed the government almost $5.4 million and BC Hydro almost $11.7 million.

Before going into politics, Fassbender was Palmer's right-hand man at the agency, back when it was known as Palmer Jarvis. Fassbender was elected Langley city mayor three times and is officially on unpaid leave of absence until his January 2014 resignation.

Their roles were reversed recently when they worked together at the B.C. Pavilion Corporation, the money-losing Crown corporation that runs B.C. Place Stadium and Vancouver Convention Cenre. Fassbender spent seven months as chair while Palmer was director.

The Liberals' Elections BC campaign filing shows $3.02 million spent on media advertising and $425,000 for polling and research.

Sports teams pitch in

The BC Liberals scored donations from executives of the B.C. Lions, Toronto Blue Jays and the principal owner of the Vancouver Whitecaps.

After the B.C. government earmarked $2.7 million to pay the Canadian Football League for the 2014 Grey Cup hosting rights, the Liberals collected donations from B.C. Lions' general manager Wally Buono ($1,000), vice-president George Chayka ($1,700), president Dennis Skulsky ($1,600) and community relations director Jamie Taras ($1,200). Owner David Braley, through the club, donated $2,950. Since 2005, Braley has donated $56,800 to the Liberals.

Vancouver Whitecaps managing director Greg Kerfoot donated $7,500 to the Liberals on May 1, a week after NDP leader Adrian Dix promised to sell BC Place Stadium if the NDP won.

The Toronto Blue Jays, the parent organization of the Vancouver Canadians, tossed $300 into the Liberals' mitt, via president Paul Beeston and Jim Fanning, the former Montreal Expos' manager.

The party really cleaned up from a yoga-pants tycoon and the part-owner of the Vancouver Canucks' nearest nemesis. Lululemon founder Chip Wilson gave $50,000 from Lululemon founder Chip Wilson via his Low Tide Properties. Lululemon also gave $10,000.

And then there was the $100,000 split between numbered companies 328727 Alberta Ltd. and 631385 Alberta Ltd. Those donations were actually made by Calgarian oilman Allan Markin, one of six co-owners of the Calgary Flames.

Party faithful pay dues

Liberal fundraising chief Michele Cadario ($400), caucus executive director Primrose Carson ($1,200), chief of staff Dan Doyle ($500) and assistant deputy minister Dimitri Pantazopoulos ($450) bucked up for the party.

Cadario became Doyle's deputy after the election. Pantazopoulos was on leave of absence from the intergovernmental relations office as a party pollster. He quit the week after the election and was registered in July to lobby for garbage-hauler BFI.

Longtime backroom guru and lobbyist Patrick Kinsella gave $4,500 through his Progressive Holdings firm.

Ministry of Justice lawyer and Justice Institute chair Doug Eastwood handed over a modest $340, while James F. Shepard is listed as donating $500 to the Liberals. Shepard was the former BC Rail director and Canfor executive who passed the hat for the $1 million Concerned Citizens for B.C. pre-election ad campaign that attacked NDP leader Adrian Dix for the backdated memo scandal.

Candidates also came to the aid of the party financially.

After the central campaign transferred $91,196.93 to Ralph Sultan in West Vancouver-Capilano (his only donation was $4,902.12 from Park Royal Shopping Centre Holdings Ltd.), Sultan's campaign came $10,401.14 under budget. He transferred $140.15 each to Don McRae (Comox Valley) and Michelle Stilwell (Parksville-Qualicum) and a whopping $5,000 to Clark's Westside-Kelowna byelection campaign.

(Sultan was asked to step aside by Clark after she lost Vancouver-Point Grey to NDP challenger David Eby. Sultan, a four-time winner in the province's safest free enterprise riding, refused to quit.)

Dr. Amrik Singh Tung ran for the Liberals in Surrey-Green Timbers. The party granted Tung a relatively paltry $12,357 to challenge NDP incumbent Sue Hammell, so he raised $56,598.51. Much of it came with his own name attached. There were 14 donations totaling $45,393.62 from Tung himself, plus $1,000 from Tung Holdings and $1,000 from Dr. A.S. Tung Medical Clinic.

One of Tung's non-Tung donors was a Sikh businessman familiar to British Columbians. Ripudaman Singh Malik, who was acquitted of the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182, donated $500. (During the 2011 federal election, Malik's photograph with Conservative Wai Young caused a national controversy, but Young still upset Liberal Ujjal Dosanjh.)

Richmond Centre newcomer Teresa Wat's $146,004 campaign included $25,632 in donations -- $5,781.54 of which were from Mainstream Broadcasting (aka CHMB AM1320), the radio station where she was president.  [Tyee]

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