In 2014, the major parties running candidates in Vancouver’s civic general election released their unaudited donations lists more than a week before election day.
Three years later, a by-election is on. City council majority Vision Vancouver and its main opponent, NPA Vancouver, are ignoring repeated requests by theBreaker to see who is putting how much into their campaigns to win the vacant city council seat and school board on Oct. 14.
Vision’s candidate to replace Geoff Meggs, now Premier John Horgan’s chief of staff, is Diego Cardona, who has had numerous run-ins with traffic cops. His NPA challenger is BC Liberal Hector Bremner, a natural gas lobbyist and protégé of ex-Deputy Premier Rich Coleman whose campaign is run by Christy Clark’s ex-husband, Mark Marissen.
Since 2014, big money in politics in British Columbia has become a major issue. Last month, the NDP government tabled a bill to ban corporate and union donations, ban donations from outside B.C. and limit individual contributions to $1,200 a year. That bill, however, only covers provincial parties and provincial candidates. There are no fundraising limits for Vancouver’s 2017 by-election.
By Oct. 10, only the Vancouver Greens and independent Jean Swanson had sent theBreaker copies of their lists, which you can read below. On Oct. 11, OneCity disclosed its donors.
The Greens, whose city council candidates is Pete Fry, reported $28,166.37 in contributions. The biggest donor is filmmaker Ian Mackenzie at $4,000. Canada’s only Green MP, Elizabeth May, kicked in $250.
Swanson reported $36,766.59 in donations so far, including $1,000 from the Teaching Support Staff Union and $200 from the St. James local of the Health Employees’ Union. Swanson also reported $300 from the Vancouver Social Justice League and $120 from Place and Space Collective.
Vying for the anti-poverty vote is Judy Graves, a former social housing bureaucrat at city hall. Graves is running for OneCity, an outfit populated by activists with historical ties to Vision and COPE. On Oct. 11, it released its unaudited list, showing $33,548.60 raised since July 4.
OneCity says it does not accept corporate donations, but the biggest individual donor in the list is corporate and political market researcher Angus Reid at $5,000. In 2013, Reid’s Vision Critical scored a no-bid, $152,000 contract with Vancouver city hall to provide the Talk Vancouver online polling system for two years. Reid was named the $1-a-year “technology and citizen engagement advisor” to Vision Vancouver leader and Mayor Gregor Robertson. The Angus Reid Institute website says that it is a non-profit foundation (registered with Canada Revenue Agency) and its employees are prohibited, when acting in their professional capacity, from participating in any political activities. Executive director Shachi Kurl did not comment on Reid’s donation.
The party also reported $5,000 from the Vancouver Elementary School Teachers Association, $2,000 from International Union of Operating Engineers, $1,000 each from unions like CUPE Local 15 (civic, parks board and school board workers), Vancouver Firefighters Union Local 18 and Heat and Frost Insulators Union Local 118. On the lower end of the scale are former Vision Vancouver politicians Patti Bacchus ($100) and Constance Barnes ($100).
Neither Vision nor the NPA have responded to repeated queries from theBreaker. If they have a change of heart, theBreaker will publish their donations lists.
None of the parties can keep their by-election financial details secret forever. Elections BC states that campaign finance disclosure statements must be filed within 90 days after voting day.