While British Columbians wait and wonder which party will govern the province, the BC Liberals are busy banking millions of dollars from their donors.
During the second half of the provincial election campaign, Christy Clark’s party rapidly amassed $2.1 million, putting the New Year’s Day to Election Day total at $7.3 million.
According to unaudited donation lists analyzed by theBreaker, the Liberals reported some of their biggest single donations of 2017 in the two weeks before the May 9 vote. The party’s 43-seat minority is subject to recounts in two ridings and 176,000 absentee ballots across the province.
Sandman Hotels, Inns and Suites donated $85,000 on April 28, only $15,000 less than Goldcorp’s year-topping $100,000 donation from Jan. 4.
Interfor Corp. and Anthem Properties gave $50,000 each on May 6, to match Pacific Investment Corp.’s March 25 donation. Kevin Falcon, the Anthem executive vice-president and former Liberal finance minister, said in a post-election interview that long overdue campaign finance reform was among the issues that cost the Liberals seats.
Others who gave May 6 included Robert Lee ($40,000), Warrington PCI ITF Infinity Building ($35,000), No. 201 Seabright Holdings Ltd. and Westwood Ridge Development Corp. ($25,000 each.)
The $7.3 million is just shy of the $7.44 million the party raised for the entire 2008 calendar year.
In 2016, the Liberals grossed $13.1 million, more than half from controversial cash for access events where Clark and cabinet ministers were featured attractions. By comparison, the NDP raised $6.2 million and the Greens $757,268 in 2016. Even if corporate and union donations are eventually restricted or prohibited, the Liberals have raised enough dough in 2017 to fight the next election in 2021 or sooner. Or a leadership contest, to replace the unpopular Clark. In 2001, 916,888 British Columbians put an X beside a Liberal candidate to vote the NDP out of office. In 2017, a combined 1,018,236 NDP and Green voters “spoke” at the ballot box for an end to 16 years of Liberal rule.
The Liberals say they release unaudited donation lists in “real time,” but actually they publish their PDF lists in intervals of 10 days to two weeks. Underlying information shows that party communications director Emile Scheffel creates the files in Microsoft Excel, but converts them to PDFs for publication without totals.
The NDP and Greens say they will release their donors’ lists in accordance with Elections BC deadlines; for the 2017 election, that is 90 days after voting day. Both parties want to ban corporate and union donations. The Liberals have only committed to striking a non-binding, expert advisory panel should they win.
B.C. has no legal limits to the size or source of political donations. The RCMP and Special Prosecutor David Butcher are investigating illegal donations made by lobbyists who didn’t disclose their clients. The Liberals have returned nearly $250,000 in illegal donations.