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Liberal donors get Order of BC nod

The "Condo King," "Big Irishman," and creator of #Gumhead are among the record 25 people named to the Order of British Columbia.

The only other time more than 20 people were named to receive the province's highest honour was in 1990, when the annual award for outstanding achievement, excellence or distinction was launched under Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm.

Besides the eclectic grouping of real estate marketing mogul Bob Rennie, former Vancouver Canucks' coach and general manager Pat Quinn and writer/multimedia artist Douglas Coupland, the class of 2014 is notable because it represents a combined $2 million in direct and indirect donations to the BC Liberal Party since 2005.

Teck CEO Don Lindsay is not listed in the Elections BC database, but his mining giant company has donated $1.636 million to the BC Liberals through Teck Coal, Teck Cominco, Teck Resources and Teck Highland Valley Copper since 2005. Teck also gave $59,590 to the NDP, including $57,500 in 2013. The company's chair, Norman Keevil, was a 2012 recipient.

Rennie is the Liberals' fundraising chair who spoke at the party's Kelowna convention last weekend. He donated $224,450 since 2005. All of the donations were to the Liberals, except for $300 to the NDP in 2009.

Conair Group chair Barry Marsden donated $84,750 exclusively to the Liberals, while Concert Properties chair David Podmore gave $30,470 to the Liberals and $4,750 to the NDP. Developer Podmore also chaired B.C. Pavilion Corporation when the proposed $75-million replacement of BC Place Stadium's air-supported roof became a $365-million renovation with a retractable roof that ballooned to $514 million.

Kingswood Capital president Lorne Segal, the founder of Free the Children's annual We Day Vancouver, gave $25,000 to the Liberals in 2013 via KKBL No. 497 Ventures and Willmore Holdings. Quinn is connected to $8,070 in donations through the Vancouver Giants, the Western Hockey League franchise he co-owns with Ron Toigo.

Other donors receiving the Order of B.C. at the Nov. 6 ceremony include: Michael Cuccione Foundation executive director Gloria Cuccione ($2,450), ex-Canfor chairman emeritus Peter Bentley ($1,825), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease researcher Dr. James Hogg ($1,500) and philanthropist Leslie Diamond ($1,260).

Although not a donor, Haisla First Nation chief councillor Ellis Ross is chair of Premier Christy Clark's Aboriginal Business and Investment Council and one of the most important figures in Clark's grand vision to build a liquefied natural gas industry in B.C. Kitimat-based Haisla is a partner in various LNG plant proposals and Ross was a speaker at Clark's 2014 LNG conference. He accompanied her on last year's LNG-themed trade mission to South Korea.

The nominators were not announced. The selection committee was headed by Chief Justice Robert Bauman and included speaker Linda Reid, Capilano University president Dr. Kris Bulcroft, Government Communications and Public Engagement deputy minister Athana Mentzelopoulos, Union of B.C. Municipalities president Rhona Martin, and 2013 Order of B.C. members Larry Berg and Sergio Cocchia.

It is not the first time there have been political overtones for the Order of B.C. Most recently, in 2011, the naming of Gordon Campbell was questioned. Though politicians are not eligible to be appointed while in office, the deadline for nominations was four days before Clark succeeded Campbell as premier. Also in 2011, Campbell's former right-hand-man Ken Dobell was named to the order, despite pleading guilty to violating lobbying laws in 2008.

Veteran political journalist Bob Mackin is a frequent contributor to The Tyee.

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