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HomeBusinessA dozen municipal parties under Elections BC investigation 

A dozen municipal parties under Elections BC investigation 

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Bob Mackin

Elections BC is investigating 12 municipal political parties over allegations they broke the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) during the 2022 election campaigns.

ABC Vancouver’s campaign ad with Ken Sim and co-star Laura Appleton (ABC Vancouver)

Three of the parties have majority control of their respective city councils: ABC Vancouver, Burnaby Citizens Association and Contract With Langley Association. 

The others are the Civic Non-Partisan Association and Vision Vancouver Elector Association, which were once the dominant parties in Vancouver, former Vancouver mayor Kennedy Stewart’s Forward Together, Vancouver mayoral contestant Mark Marissen’s Progress Vancouver, councillor Chak Au’s Richmond Community Coalition, councillor Linda Annis’s Surrey First Electors Society, former mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, Surrey-Newton Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal’s United Surrey, Township of Langley Mayor Eric Woodward’s Contract With Langley and Spirit Alliance, which ran two unsuccessful candidates in Kelowna. 

Elections BC said the investigations are related to one or more contraventions of laws against accepting prohibited donations, failing to deal with prohibited contributions and/or sponsoring election advertising without an authorization statement. 

“The investigations will determine whether contraventions have occurred or not and Elections BC will share the results of these investigations once they conclude. At this point no contraventions have been confirmed,” the agency said in an April 11 announcement. 

Parties and candidates had until Jan. 13, 2023 to disclose their campaign financing reports to Elections BC, which said it reviewed and spent until last September auditing the reports. 

“Some filers were required to submit supplementary reports to correct information in the initial filings, or disclose additional information required by LECFA.”

Investigations will proceed independently and case-by-case and Elections BC said it would either confirm each target is in compliance or subject to enforcement, including fines and provide updates on Wednesdays. 

Christy Clark (left) and Mark Marissen – divorced but always a political couple (Silvester Law/Instagram)

“All of the elector organizations listed above have been cooperative with Elections BC throughout the compliance review, audit, and supplementary report filing processes,” the announcement said. 

Under the rules for the 2022 campaign, individuals were allowed to donate up to $1,250 per campaign, if they were living in B.C. and a permanent resident or citizen of Canada. Companies and unions were banned from donating in 2017. 

Candidates and parties are required to have a financial agent that must follow rules about handling donations and filing returns. Elections BC has the power to levy fines up to double the amount of a prohibited donation. 

The biggest name under investigation is ABC Vancouver, the Sim-led party that dominated the 2022 civic elections in Vancouver. 

The party returned more than $116,000 in prohibited donations before last Christmas, including almost $7,000 to Sim and his immediate family. 

Elections BC launched the investigation earlier last year after a complaint from rival party TEAM for a Livable Vancouver. Director Sal Robinson conducted an analysis of ABC’s public filings and found several irregularities. 

In 2018, Sim represented the NPA and narrowly lost to Stewart by just 957 votes. The NPA took another two years to satisfy Elections BC’s reporting requirements. 

In October 2022, at the helm of the new ABC party, Sim defeated incumbent Stewart by a 36,000-vote margin, becoming Vancouver’s first Chinese-Canadian mayor. ABC took supermajorities on city council and park board.

ABC’s amended disclosure said it raised more than $1.4 million in donations for the campaign and spent $800,077 of that. Sim’s chief of staff Trevor Ford and ABC financial agent Corey Sue did not respond for comment by deadline. 

Progress Vancouver leader Marissen was the fourth place finisher in the 2022 race for mayor. However, Elections BC disqualified him from running in 2026 and deregistered the party last July when it launched an investigation. 

Elections BC cited Progress Vancouver for taking a non-permissible loan of $50,000, receiving donations without reporting contributor names and addresses, accepting prohibited campaign contributions from outside B.C. and accepting contributions that exceeded annual limits.

Image from WeChat video of Sept. 23 Fred Harding campaign event (NPA/WeChat)

“Further enforcement actions may apply depending on the results of this investigation,” Elections BC said last July. “Elections BC will provide an update on the outcome of this investigation once it concludes.”

Marissen said April 11 that Progress Vancouver has provided Elections BC “with all of the information that they have requested to date.”

“We hope to have this issue resolved as soon as possible,” he said. 

Chris Wilson, financial agent for the NPA, said Elections BC has been investigating the omission of financial agent contact information from a radio ad that aired on CKNW during the campaign. Wilson said the omission was corrected before election day. 

“The voice actor we hired to record the radio ad just didn’t read my name, even though that’s what they were instructed to do,” Wilson said. “

“We’re disappointed that this matter has taken so long to close.”

The NPA’s fifth-place candidate for mayor was Fred Harding, a former Vancouver cop who lives full-time in Beijing where he has promoted sales of Vancouver condominiums to Chinese investors.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s Forward Together party filed an amended report on Feb. 26 that said it took in $924,238.35 and paid out more than $1.1 million in expenses. 

Forward Together repaid two prohibited 2022 donations last July for $1,250 each to Stewart and his wife/council candidate Jeanette Ashe.

Woodward, who leads Contract With Langley, said his party has completed four audit inquiries from Elections BC since the election and continues to co-operate with the agency.

“We are waiting for more information from them regarding what follow-ups or additional information they are looking for,” Woodward said. 

Said BCA president Marcel Marsolais: “We will work with Elections BC to resolve any concerns and are committed to being in compliance with the LECFA.”

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