A funny thing happened on the way to the Leader’s Levee.
A booze binge.
No, not me. The NDP.
Elections BC released the governing party’s 2017 annual report on April 9. Premier John Horgan’s biggest fundraiser after the May 9 election was at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver last Sept. 22, for what was billed as the Leader’s Levee.
The cash for access cocktail party drew 443 who paid $550-a-pop. Another 58 paid $165 each. The party grossed almost $200,000 and netted $125,228.18. Only two reporters, including yours truly, attended the event, but access was severely limited. There were no interviews allowed with Horgan and reporters were not allowed to freely circulate in the ballroom.
When the speech was over and party president Craig Keating conducted a brief scrum, reporters were ushered out the door.
The Elections BC database does not make it clear who donated to the Sept. 22 event, so more digging is required. But a look at the day before, Sept. 21, revealed the sleeper story.
On the last day of summer, the party reported $670,434.48 in donations — approximately $370,000 in big money contributions from the liquor industry.
Some of the donors (and amounts) included: Alpenhaus Restaurants ($100,000); Paddlewheeler, John B. Pub, Byrton Liquor Warehouse, Woody’s Sports Pub Inc. Liquor Store ($20,000 each); Langley Hospitality Inc. Samz Neighbourhood Pub ($15,000), Oliver Twist Neighbourhood Pub, Monarc Hospitality Corp., Jericho Liquor Store, Sapperton Liquor Store, Two Parrots Pub and Liquor Store ($10,000 each), Queen’s Cross, Black Bear Pub, Berezan LRS Langley, Berezan LRS White Rock, Berezan LRS Hwy 33 ($5,000 each).
On the same day, Terrim Properties donated $25,000 each from its Chances Salmon Arm and Chances Castlegar casinos. Those are also Ralph Berezan-owned enterprises.
“It reads like a Liberals’ donor list,” said Dermod Travis of IntegrityBC. “I’m actually surprised at the groups they took money from. It’s not going to go over well in the party.”
Travis also noticed 11 of the cheques from pub and liquor store owners were each for the identical amount of $1,818.
The NDP fundraising flurry eclipsed a March 24, 2010 event hosted by then-BC Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell and perennial liquor minister Rich Coleman at the Gotham Steakhouse in downtown Vancouver. On that day, just weeks before industry-pleasing Liquor Control and Licensing Act amendments, the BC Liberals raised $302,500. At least a dozen liquor businesses donated $15,000 each for that event.
Did the liquor loot have an impact on the fledgling NDP government?
You be the judge.
Attorney General David Eby announced Nov. 7 that he had retained wine lawyer Mark Hicken as a liquor policy analyst and industry liaison. On Feb. 23, Eby announced Hicken would chair a Business Technical Advisory Panel, to include members from the major provincial lobby groups representing the wine, craft beer, craft distillers, national beer brands, restaurant industry and private liquor stores.
For the 2017 calendar year, the NDP reported raising $15.3 million in donations and an $820,000 surplus. The BC Liberals, who lost power when the NDP and Greens forced a June 29 no confidence vote, reported $12.75 million in donations, but a whopping deficit of $7.36 million.
The NDP banned corporate and union donations and set $1,200 as the maximum for individuals to donate.
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