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HomeBusinessFalcon overspent by almost $500,000 to win BC Liberal leadership

Falcon overspent by almost $500,000 to win BC Liberal leadership

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Bob Mackin

Not only did B.C. opposition leader Kevin Falcon miss the deadline to file his leadership campaign financing report, but he blew way past the BC Liberal Party’s $600,000 spending limit. 

Falcon spent $1.078 million to become leader on Feb. 5, according to the Elections BC returns released June 8.

Kevin Falcon and BC Liberal leadership candidates except Val Litwin (BC Liberals/Facebook)

Elections BC fined Falcon and fellow contestants Val Litwin and Renee Merrifield $500 each for missing the May 6 deadline and gave them until June 6 to comply. Stan Sipos was also granted an extension, but not fined, due to unspecified extenuating circumstances. 

Falcon’s biggest line item was $519,396.40 for professional services, followed by $282,002.27 for staff expenses, GST, bad debt and net Liberal Party expenditures, and $106,866.38 for social functions. The report does not name suppliers. 

The $1,078,220.32 figure for total contestant expenses appears above a crossed-out total of $3,234.66.96. Falcon did not respond for comment. 

Advertising, normally one of the biggest expenses for a political campaign, came in at $28,226.71, slightly more than the $26,288.75 Falcon reported for personal expenses. 

Falcon’s team claims it spent only $12,000 on research and data, including polling.

As of Feb. 15, Falcon’s leadership campaign owed $100,000 in loans to RBC at a 2.95% interest rate.  

The campaign took in $923,576.18, including $816,796.18 in direct donations and the rest in transfers from the central party. 

Prominent donors included Falcon’s boss at Anthem Properties Eric Carlson ($1,200), developer Rick Ilich ($1,268.07), White Spot and Shato Holdings owner Peter Toigo ($1,268.07), real estate agent Karim Virani ($1,000), political strategist and lobbyist Patrick Kinsella ($1,250) and former B.C. government deputy ministers John Dyble ($1,268.07) and Dan Doyle ($1,268).

Falcon returned $13,669.99 in illegal donations. The largest was $3,804 from Golden Top Financial Services, which bills itself as a non-bank financial institution that focuses on providing home mortgage services for overseas Chinese.

Only individuals are allowed to donate to political campaigns in B.C. 

There were also 43 prohibited individual donations $31.83 each over the individual limit and 10 $31.93 over the limit. All of which were dated at the start of May, but returned at the end of the month. Though the Elections BC donation limit for 2022 is $1,309.09, the BC Liberal leadership race was called in 2021 when the maximum was $1,268.07. 

In total, the seven candidates raised $2.28 million. 

Gavin Dew, Michael Lee and runner-up Ellis Ross filed on time, but the reports released May 11 showed that Lee exceeded the party-imposed $600,000 spending limit by $42,000. 

On Feb. 5, Falcon won the phone and online contest on the fifth ballot with 52.19% of weighted votes (4,541.35 points) to Ross’s 33.65% (2,928.33). Lee was third with 14.14% (1,230.31).

The race was held under a cloud of controversy as Falcon opponents complained about fraudulent memberships. With hours to go in voting on Feb. 5, a BC Supreme judge rejected a petition from BC Liberal member Vikram Bajwa that aimed to delay the release of results by 15 days in order to investigate the allegations.

Kevin Falcon enters the Wall Centre ballroom on Feb. 5 (BC Liberals/Facebook)

In early January, managers for five of the candidates wrote party brass seeking an audit of party membership sales. An internal party audit found more than 32,000 new memberships were sold B.C.-wide, with much of the growth concentrated in Surrey and Abbotsford riding associations.

Lee’s campaign manager, Diamond Isinger, complained in a Jan. 31 email to the party that contractor Votem did not have basic safeguards to limit the use of multiple IP addresses and virtual private networks, nor was the party allowing real-time scrutineers.

When Lee confronted Falcon at the Jan. 18 candidates’ debate, Falcon dismissed the allegations and accused Lee of “creating a cloud of distrust.”

North Vancouver-resident Falcon handily won an April 30 by-election in Vancouver-Quilchena to fill the seat vacated by ex-leader Andrew Wilkinson. Falcon was sworn-in on May 16, three days after Premier John Horgan announced the controversial $1 billion Royal B.C. Museum replacement. 

The runner-up in the 2011 leadership race to Christy Clark quit politics in 2012 after 11 years in multiple cabinet portfolios and became executive vice-president at developer Anthem Properties.

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