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HomeBusinessCOVID Exclusive: B.C.’s New Car Dealers credit lobbying after winning the government’s essential service nod

COVID Exclusive: B.C.’s New Car Dealers credit lobbying after winning the government’s essential service nod

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Bob Mackin

British Columbia’s automobile sales lobby drove a victory lap after the industry scored essential service designation from the provincial government on March 26.

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C.’s daily email newsletter to members credited the organization’s lobbying for the government’s decision to let showrooms and garages remain open at a time when British Columbia is under a state of emergency and citizens are urged to stay home because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Blair Qualey of the New Car Dealers Association (Mackin)

“Today’s announcement by the B.C. government on essential services was an important clarification for B.C.’s New Car Dealers — for those dealers who choose to stay open to serve their customers, whether that be for repair and maintenance, sales, lease returns, etc., they are able to do so. Those who make the decision to close, you are not required to stay open.” read the email, obtained by theBreaker.news.

“The strong relationships with government that the Association has developed over the years, combined with its continued advocacy on behalf of members, are in large part responsible for the important development today, and would not have occurred without it.”

How strong are those relationships with the government?

Since 2010, NCDA, which represents almost 400 dealers, has administered the government’s Clean Energy Vehicle rebate program, now known as Go Electric B.C. February’s budget earmarked $32 million to the program.

NCDA had a long history of political donations before the NDP’s post-2017 election ban on corporate donations: $1.408 million to the BC Liberals and $138,290 to the NDP. In 2018, executive director Blair Qualey gave $1,200 to the NDP.

NCDA’s lobbying firm is Bluestone Government Relations, headed by longtime BC Liberal Mark Jiles. After the NDP came to power in summer 2017, Jiles hired Rob Nagai, the NDP’s former corporate fundraiser.

Ex-NDP corporate fundraiser Rob Nagai with John Horgan. (Twitter)

We know that there are many people who are providing critical services who require their vehicles to get to and from work and many people in rural areas need to drive considerable distances, just to access groceries, medications or other requirements,” Qualey said by email. “Some of those people require maintenance, servicing or manufacturer warranty work and need to access our members to do that.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who issued the essential services list on March 26, did not respond for comment.

NCDA produces the Vancouver Auto Show, but the 100th edition from March 26-29 was among the myriad events postponed indefinitely by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Qualey said that many dealers have implemented “buy from home” programs during the state of emergency. B.C.’s biggest GM dealership, Dueck on Marine, has stepped-up cleaning of so-called “high touch areas” in vehicles and around the building, promoted social distancing and is allowing staff to work from home.

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