Nobody had a bigger smile in the drizzle that muddied Hastings Racecourse on the opening day of 2017’s meet than developer Peter Redekop.
Distinctiv Passion, the seven-year-old that the B.C. Horse Racing Hall of Famer claimed at Santa Anita in March, went wire-to-wire in race number 7 on April 23 under jockey Enrique Gonzalez. They handily won the $50,000 Swift Thoroughbreds Inaugural stakes.
After celebrating the triumphant number 7 horse with trainer Phil Hall and Gonzalez, the white-haired, black-suited Redekop emerged from the winner’s enclosure, with an armload of flowers. He then faced questions from a reporter about a high stakes horse race of a different sort.
Redekop is one of the biggest individual donors to the incumbent BC Liberal Party. The $250,000 he gave in 2016 increased his total since 2005 to $719,800. All under his own name, except $25,000 through his Richmond-headquartered Redekop Kroeker Developments Inc. Redekop is the driving force behind the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Abbotsford. When it opened in January 2016, Premier Christy Clark joined him for the ribbon-cutting.
“I was born in the Ukraine, we know all the Communists and all that, we don’t want the lefties, sorry we don’t want the lefties,” Redekop, 84, told theBreaker. “We had enough when I was a young fellow, my dad was in prison for nine months for no reason, whatsoever.
“We’re very proud of the free enterprise party and that’s why we’re supporting it.”
David Eby, the NDP’s housing and gambling critic, said it is hard to see how his party’s promised $10-a-day childcare or affordable housing would threaten someone’s rights and freedoms.
“I’ve heard a lot of bizarre things in politics and that suggestion that you need to make six-figure donations to the BC Liberals to avoid being imprisoned by the NDP ranks up there as one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever heard,” Eby said. “As someone who is half-Mennonite by descent myself, I find the idea preposterous, at best.”
British Columbia has no legal limits to the size or source of donations to political parties and candidates. The NDP and Greens have both promised to ban corporate and union donations if they win the May 9 election. The Liberals have vowed only to appoint a non-binding advisory panel to consider reforms with no deadline for implementation. Whatever happens, Redekop said he would follow the law, “no problem.”
For now, he uses words like “garbage” and “nonsense” to describe the controversy over campaign financing that is dominating the election discourse.
“This is a free country, I could support whoever I wish. That is what I’m doing and that’s why so many others are doing that,” he said. “And that’s why we expect and we hope that [BC Liberals will] win.”
And they’re off
The Elections BC database shows Feb. 26 as the date of Redekop’s first $100,000 donation of 2016. His brother, John Redekop, made a $200,000 donation on the same day. Likewise, for cousin Peter Wall and his nephew Bruno, who made donations from their development companies totalling $400,000.
Those donations contributed to the party’s $1.65 million take, the biggest single-day windfall of the year. The Liberals told Elections BC they grossed $13.1 million in donations for the entire year, of which $6.9 million came from 143 cash for access events.
A source told theBreaker that the lion’s share of the Feb. 26 donations was connected to a private Feb. 23 dinner organized by Liberal power broker and horse racing aficionado Patrick Kinsella, with appearances by Clark and Deputy Premier and Housing Minister Rich Coleman.
Redekop said he didn’t attend a fundraising event, but “just sent them a cheque.”
Asked if he knew why so many big donations happened at the same time, he said: “I know [Clark] of course and I just sent them a cheque. Hey, we want them to win. Obviously, we don’t want the lefties to win, because they will destroy our province.”
The week after the flurry of donations, Bruno Wall sold a Chinatown lot to BC Housing for just under $7 million. It was a major milestone in Wall Financial Corporation’s $39.5 million, non-tendered, private-public partnership with the Coleman-controlled Crown corporation to build an 11-storey tower with 104 social housing units and 68 market rentals at East Hastings and Gore.
Back in 2004, Peter Wall partnered with Great Canadian Gaming to buy the track’s operating company, Hastings Entertainment Inc., from Toronto’s Woodbine Entertainment. After the COPE majority city council voted to allow 600 slot machines, Wall sold his 40% stake for a reported $17 million.
Redekop said he doesn’t get much in return from the Liberals, “except being a good government.”
But the province’s real estate industry benefitted immensely from self-regulation under the Liberals as money poured in from China with minimal few checks and balances. Thoroughbred horse owners continue to benefit from government support, which has kept struggling tracks open amid a generational shift to other spectator sports and forms of gambling.
In 2015-2016, the B.C. government moved $10.3 million of B.C. Lottery Corporation profits into horse racing purse enhancements. That is money that could have gone instead to non-profit arts, environment, sport or social services groups. The sum was $3 million less than what the Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch got for the year and nearly double the $5.9 million budgeted for responsible gambling starategies.
Equibase statistics from 2000 to 2017 show that Peter Redekop B.C. Ltd.-owned horses have earned $10,321,598 at Hastings and tracks across North America. Redekop boasts an impressive record of a combined 703 wins, places and shows in 1,267 starts.
In 2014, he became the first owner to win the B.C. Derby three consecutive times.