Opinion

Odd, outlandish and over-the-top donations to B.C. political parties

By Dermod Travis

So what does a Conservative party senator from Ontario, the Toronto Blue Jays, an Ontario public sector union and a part-owner of the Calgary Flames all have in common? If their chequebook is any indication, they have a keen interest in B.C. politics.

Ontario Senator Nancy Ruth donated $5,000 to the B.C. Green party in 2013, the Blue Jays passed the mitt round the dugout to scrape up $300 for the B.C. Liberal party, CUPE Ontario gave $500 to the B.C. NDP and Allan Markin, part-owner of the Calgary Flames, gave $100,000 to the B.C. Liberals.

Who knew folk outside B.C. cared so much?

All of this is gleaned from that annual rite of spring: the financial filings of B.C.'s political parties. Each April, B.C.'s registered political parties file their annual reports, offering a glimpse at how the parties are funded and how they spend that money.

Most donors to B.C.'s main political parties can be lumped into a few broad categories.

There's the 'boy that's not a shock' donor group, donations such as the B.C. Federation of Labour's $110,401 to the B.C. NDP or the BCGEU 's $421,802. Although, it may shock a few that the BCTF didn't give to the NDP in 2013. It's a long-standing practice of the BCTF not to donate to political parties of any stripe.

There's the 'what ever were they thinking when they signed that cheque' donor. Like the $10,000 donation that Toronto-based Postmedia, owner of the Vancouver Sun and Province, made to the Liberals.

Then there's the 'we've got money to burn' donor crowd.

West Fraser Mills gave $99,495 to the Liberals and $500 to the NDP. West Fraser was one of two forestry companies recently caught cutting healthy timber meant for future harvests when they were supposed to be harvesting dead and dying pine.

The company could have faced a hefty fine, but after assuring the minister in the strongest of all possible terms that it would never ever happen again, scout's honour, they walked away with a slap on the wrist, as did the other company involved – Jimmy Pattison's Canfor.

Calgary-based Burnco Rock Products donated $34,000 to the Liberals, bringing their eight year running total to $219,700.

Presumably with a sharp eye on the polls – and after years of giving exclusively to the Liberals – they finally found some moola for the NDP. But talk about cutting it close. With just a week to spare before voting day, Burnco cut two cheques to the NDP totalling $12,500.

Burnco has big plans for a large scale gravel mine at McNab Creek at the northern end of Howe Sound. If it gets the green light, it'll crush and process gravel 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

And even though it's hard at work trying to meet the 209 conditions of the Joint Review Panel, Northern Gateway Pipelines still found time to cut seven cheques totalling $23,050 to the Liberals.

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C. gave $180,000 to the Liberals, bringing their nine year benevolence to $1,061,527. Coincidentally, the only major tax change that survived the transition from the HST to the PST was the 12 per cent sales tax on vehicles sold privately, as in not from a dealer's lot.

RCI Capital gave $6,000 to the Liberals. That's the company that once had a subsidiary that Premier Christy Clark was once chair of but according to her never once worked for and was never paid for not doing any of that work.

The Great Canadian Gaming Corporation gave $24,080 to the NDP, but not so much as a poker chip to the Liberals.

That may be the result of the Liberals choosing not to accept money from gambling companies – at least directly. However, owners are a different matter. Prince George resident John S. Major gave $60,000 to the Liberals last year, bringing his six year total to $269,390. That's a lot of chips. Major owns the Treasure Cove Casino.

Who knew that professional sports teams were political junkies as well? In addition to the Blue Jays, the Vancouver Giants gave the B.C. Liberals $300, the Vancouver Whitecaps gave $2,500 and the BC Lions forked out $13,150. No doubt about who they were cheering for.

And who was the fairest – or most generous – leader of them all in 2013? John Cummins hands down. He gave the B.C. Conservatives $8,260. Adrian Dix gave the NDP $1,775 and Jane Sterk gave the B.C. Greens $645.

Christy Clark? Well her name doesn't actually appear on the list of donors who gave the Liberals more than $250 in 2013.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

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