Six unions contributed nearly $2.5 million to the B.C. NDP’s 2017 election war chest, which eventually resulted in the party’s return to government.
In opposition, the party failed six times to convince the previous BC Liberal government to ban corporate and union donations, but refused to voluntarily refuse big money donations. Premier John Horgan vows to legislate limits to the amounts and sources of political donations this fall.
United Steelworkers were the party’s biggest donor, with $757,614.87 in donations. The $672,576.38 in USW donations to the NDP last year were featured in BC Liberal attack ads during the election.
Other big union donations to the NDP, disclosed by Elections BC on Aug. 15, came from the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union ($399,686.54), CUPE ($611,520.59), United Food and Commercial Workers Union ($220,141.83), MoveUP ($215,727.27) and Hospital Employees’ Union ($290,647.02).
The NDP raised $9.125 million, including $3.07 million from unions, and spent $7.97 million. That broke down to $4.3 million on the central campaign and $3.6 million in transfers to candidates, who also did their own fundraising. The party ended the campaign owing $765,000.
The Liberals spent $13.6 million — $4.6 million on the central campaign and $7.8 million in transfers to candidates. The party that ruled the province from 2001 to 2017 took out $3 million in loans from four banks on Feb. 1 and owes $2.8 million.
Parties were limited to $4.8 million in central campaign spending.
The May 9 election ended with the BC Liberals winning 43 seats in the new 87-seat Legislature, one shy of a majority and six fewer than they held before dissolution. The three-seat Greens allied with the 41-seat NDP to displace the Liberals in a June 29 no-confidence vote.
The Greens spent just $905,000. Last fall, leader Andrew Weaver eschewed donations from corporations and unions, but theBreaker analyzed the party’s disclosure forms and found that two businessmen and a member of a prominent real estate clan made large donations.
Stephen Cheeseman of Chinook Power ($3,000) and tech entrepreneur James Douma ($5,000) were dwarfed by Elizabeth Beedie’s $20,000 contribution. She is the wife of Keith Beedie and mother of Ryan Beedie, the province’s largest industrial landowners. The younger Beedie donated $26,500 to the BC Liberals in 2017.
The NDP claimed it raised $4.5 million from individuals.
One of them was Mount Pleasant MLA Melanie Mark, now the Advanced Education minister, who donated $5,450 to her party, making her one of its biggest individual donors. She is eligible to receive a $500 tax deduction, the same as if she had donated to the $1,150 tax credit cap. By comparison, leader John Horgan gave $1,550.
Ex-premier Christy Clark made no financial contribution to her party, which had paid her $50,000 last year in a controversial leader’s stipend on top of her $195,000 salary as premier.
The NDP reported 11 individual donations for $10,000 each, including one from developer Dale Bosa. Ex-BC Hydro chair John Laxton gave $11,000. The biggest individual donations came from Kevin Campbell ($27,450), Sonya Lynn Makaroff ($26,560), Paul Jorjorian ($24,180) and Ghao Jie Li ($20,000).
The party also took in $1.4 million from corporations. The biggest, $101,000, came from two companies owned by the Aquilini family. There was also $50,790 from mining giant Teck and $21,185 from telecom Telus, which gave the BC Liberals $15,500 and $13,580, respectively.
The NDP also disclosed donations from 30 numbered companies, including $25,000 from the Joo Kim Tiah-owned 1034808 B.C. Ltd. Tiah’s family developed the Vancouver Trump Tower and operates the Trump Hotel franchise.
The BC Liberals came into the election after raising $13.1 million in 2016. The party was under a cloud of controversy for hosting exclusive cash for access fundraisers featuring members of cabinet and it faced allegations of pay to play. There are no laws in B.C. that limit the size or source of donations to political parties. But, in March, the RCMP and a special prosecutor began to investigate indirect donations from lobbyists.
BC Liberal returns showed that three main cash for access fundraising events grossed $2.9 million, but were also subject to $1.08 million in costs. That limited the net deposit to the party’s accounts to $1.8 million.
A Valentine’s Day fundraiser in Victoria grossed $208,800, but the function cost $114,821.75 for a $93,978.25 gross. On March 4 in Prince George, the event grossed $303,417.22, but netted only $85,248.43 after $218,167.79 in costs. The biggest was the April 10 fundraiser that grossed $801,300 at the Vancouver Convention Centre on the night before the election campaign officially started. The party counted $494,792.38 net, after $303,507.62 in costs.
The BC Liberals also disclosed $13,200 in 12 prohibited contributions returned to donors, including $5,000 from Mount Polley owner Imperial Metals Corporation and $3,000 from Woodfibre LNG. They were all listed as an “indirect contribution,” meaning they were made by lobbyists or executives under their personal names.
Major BC Liberal corporate donors included West Fraser Mills ($111,000), Sandman Inn ($95,000), Independent Contractors and Businesses Association ($77,400), Interfor ($75,550), Anthem Properties ($64,500) and New Car Dealers ($48,050).
Prospero Group founder Robert Lee ($40,000) eclipsed former SNC-Lavalin chairman Gwyn Morgan ($38,500). Longtime BC Liberal bagman Peter Brown gave a modest $10,000. Vancouver Canucks’ co-owner Roberto Aquilini gave $10,500, while three of his family’s companies gave $17,100.
Defeated transit and taxis minister Peter Fassbender’s Surrey Fleetwood re-election campaign moved almost $318,000 in and out of its accounts. Only $66,288.03 was subject to the $77,674.62 per candidate spending limit, the form said.
In the May 9 election, the NDP increased from 34 to 41 seats, the Liberals lost six for 43 and the Greens tripled to three. The NDP had 795,106 votes province-wide and wound-up spending $9.95 per vote. The Liberals spent $17.06 per vote for their 796,772 tally, while the Greens spent an economical $2.72 to attract 332,387 votes.
Nine candidates, including five from the NDP, got filing extensions due to extenuating circumstances. Five losing BC Liberals, including star candidate Steve Darling, missed the filing deadline. They have until Sept. 7 and must pay a $500 late filing penalty to Elections BC.