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BC Libs Dipped Below $10M in 2015 Donations, Still Flush with Cash

Newly published filings show party outraised NDP about $3 to $1.

By Bob Mackin and Andrew MacLeod 6 Apr 2016 |

North Vancouver-based journalist Bob Mackin has reported for local, regional, national and international media outlets since he began as a journalist in 1990.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, April 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

"Last year, our party raised $6 million from a wide range of donors across the province," wrote BC Liberal executive director Laura Miller in a Monday memo to members.

That $6 million would have been the party's worst take since 2009. But, it turned out, Miller was off by nearly $4 million. A happy mistake for members, indeed.

In newly published filings with Elections BC, the party claimed 14,176 contributors gave $9.98 million last year -- $3.35 million from individuals, $5.28 million from corporations and $728,795 from unincorporated business and commercial organizations.

It finished the year with a surplus of nearly $2.9 million. That's down from 2014, when the party brought in $10.13 million in donations and boasted a $3.18-million surplus.

In B.C., there are no limits to the frequency or size of donations to provincial or municipal political parties, and Finance Minister Mike de Jong said Monday the BC Liberals aren't about to change that.

In Ontario, the limit for anyone to donate is $9,975 to a central party in a year and $9,975 to a central party for each campaign period, $1,330 to a single riding association annually, and $1,330 to a single candidate in a campaign period.

Alberta caps donations to a political party at $15,000 per calendar year and $30,000 in a campaign period. In 2015, donations from corporations, trade unions and employee organizations were banned.

There were fluctuations in the 2015 donations, perhaps reflecting industry realities. Teck Resources, a mining company, gave $144,600 in 2014. In 2015, the world commodities market suffered and the company gave $32,680.

Meanwhile, the good times are rolling for the province's real estate and construction tycoons. The Aquilini family forked over $53,650 in 2014 and $175,975 in 2015. Condo marketer extraordinaire Bob Rennie donated $17,200 in 2014. In 2015, he upped that to $73,500.

Aquilini ($1,292,645) and Teck Resources ($773,470) are among the biggest Liberal donors since 2005. Rennie is the party's fundraising chair.

Party all the time

More than half the Liberals' gross income came from $5.75 million raised at 136 functions of various types. After expenses, the party netted $3.78 million.

A fundraising dinner at the Vancouver Convention Centre last June took in over $1 million, netting $928,027. A more intimate Feb. 3 event in Abbotsford raised $92,960, including the sale of 19 tickets at $5,000 each.

Though Premier Christy Clark is a rabid Vancouver Whitecaps and Vancouver Canucks' fan, golf is a bigger revenue-generator. Deputy premier Rich Coleman chaired the 13th Annual Leaders Invitational on June 22, billed as the party's largest Fraser Valley networking event, boasting two golf courses, 50 trade show booths, and a dozen chef stations with beverage pairings.

The Aquilini Investment Group-sponsored event grossed $550,763, but, after costs, sent $313,269 to party coffers. That was the day the party reported hefty donations from Bao Li Zhu ($48,000), Naigang Bao ($40,000), West Coast Instant Lawns ($30,000), William McEachnie ($30,000) and Yang Sheng Zhao ($30,000).

No event was listed in the filings for Dec. 22, when it received big donations from Larry Lien Kuan Yen ($50,000), Dennis J. "Chip" Wilson ($50,000) and Encana ($50,000).

On Oct. 20, the night after the federal election, a Vancouver fundraising dinner raised $302,159.

A fundraising dinner in Prince George on April 17 grossed $170,809, but cost $148,190 to stage, leaving only $22,618 in donations that went to the party bottom line.

Vancouver-Point Grey was the riding Clark lost when her party won the 2013 election by surprise. A modest June 24 event there raised $504, but, after costs, netted just $6.32.

While many of her caucus colleagues show up in the filings, Clark's name does not appear as a donor. There is, however, a Christie Clark from PricewaterhouseCoopers Management Services LP who gave $350 on March 24.

Construction lobbyist Phil Hochstein made 13 donations totalling $17,785 personally. His Independent Contractors and Businesses Association gave $47,000.

Longtime lobbyist and strategist Patrick Kinsella donated $9,760, and Earnscliffe Strategy Group's Bruce Young gave $25,550.

There were 21 rejected donations for nearly $7,000, including $600 from City of Surrey, $255 from University of Northern B.C., $2,500 from Guru Nanak Education Society of B.C. and $500 from Canuck Place.

Public institutions and charities are not permitted to donate to B.C. parties. An email to Surrey mayoral spokesman Oliver Lum was not returned.

By comparison

Meanwhile, the NDP raised about $1 in political donations for every $3 the BC Liberals received. Totals for the New Democrats included $2.49 million from individuals, $376,336 from trade unions, $149,820 from corporations and $30,290 from non-profit organizations.

The party's income for the year was just over $4 million, which included the sale of its Burnaby headquarters, leaving it with a surplus for the year of about $900,000.

The biggest donation to the NDP was $60,000 from the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union. Altogether the union, which represents many provincial government employees, gave the party $92,769.

Other top union donors -- combining amounts given by national and regional affiliates -- included the United Steelworkers ($66,325), MoveUP ($45,425), the Canadian Union of Public Employees ($31,770), the United Food and Commercial Workers ($18,375), the Hospital Employees' Union ($16,375) and Unifor ($13,875).

Top individual donations to the NDP came from Wayne Shalagan ($50,000), Arthur H. Flowerdew ($25,000), Deanna Kratzenberg ($15,425), Paul Jorjorian ($10,160) and Lowell Monkhouse ($10,000).

Corporations donating to the NDP included London Drugs Ltd. ($7,500), Woodfibre LNG ($7,500), Fortis BC Inc. ($5,000), Encana ($4,925) and Telus ($4,350).

The B.C. Real Estate Association gave $7,500 and the law firm representing some of the fired health ministry workers, Caroline and Gislason Lawyers LLP, gave $6,500.

The NDP also received $5,000 from the Laxgalts'ap Village Government.

The BC Green party, which is registered as the Green Party Political Association of British Columbia, failed to file a report by the March 31 deadline.

A Green spokesperson said the party was unable to get its report audited in time to meet the deadline. During the year, the Greens took in $417,485 and spent $453,376, according to unaudited figures provided in the statement.

The party has until June 29 to file the audited report, along with a $100 late filing fee.  [Tyee]

Read more: BC Politics

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