In the weeks before the November 15 election, amid heightened public concern about the influence of corporate and union donations on local politics, there was a flurry of announcements by civic parties voluntarily publishing their donors’ lists. This was precedent-setting. Vision Vancouver was the last to do so, and reported the largest dollar amount.
But did the party fail to accurately and fully report its campaign contributions? Did it leave off a number of donors, and under-report the total amount received? Was the public misled?
This week, the Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) took some heat for failing to report some donations, and did return some donations that had been accepted against its own strict internal policies against taking money from developers. Vision has no such self-imposed limits, but how did Vision perform in terms of completeness of reporting?
It’s time for a closer look.
Corporations including the Beedie Group, Concert Properties, Telus and Bentall Kennedy bought entire tables at a Vision Campaign Gala on October 30, 2014 at the Westin Bayshore Hotel. The photo to the right shows a list of the sponsors that had purchased tables at the $250-a-plate fundraiser. Were all of the sponsors from the Campaign Gala reported in Vision’s donor list?
The answer is no. A number of the sponsors are not listed in Vision’s “comprehensive pre-election list of campaign contributors.”
We reported on November 6th that Vision had released a donors list for the period between Jan 1 and Oct 31, 2014. (An OCR text version of the PDF is available here, and Chad Skelton of the Vancouver Sun published a spreadsheet file). The Vancouver Greens, the NPA, One City and COPE also released their respective donors lists. Vision claimed a total of $2,251,348 worth of donations had come in during the period noted – the most of any party. (The public will probably never know their political donations received for period from November 2011 to December 2013, and donations from Nov 1 to election day have yet to be reported.)
A number of the Campaign Gala sponsors do not appear in Vision’s donor list. The tables at the Bayshore reportedly went for $2,500. Let’s look at a partial listing a few firms and their respective table numbers.
Corporations: Beedie Group (table #6), Concert Properties (43), Telus (51), Bentall Kennedy (89) and Brightlight Pictures (45).
The Beedie Group holds the leasehold for Kingsgate Mall (which the Vancouver School Board might be planning to offer for sale now), and would like to put three towers on the site. Telus received the approval of a major rezoning from Vision (Telus Gardens), while Concert Properties was the beneficiary of a couple of large rezonings (1304 Hornby & 1551 Quebec). Bentall Kennedy is the developer for 3030 East Broadway, a large commercial rezoning.
A number of medical marijuana outfits also bought tables: Medpot Now (Table #65), Medical Canabis [sic] Dispensary (#67) and Eden & Buddah’s Sister Dispensaries (#68). None of these establishments are listed in the donors list.
The Young Liberals (Table 32) and the Young New Democrats (Table 33) don’t appear in the list of donors.
City staffer Lara Honrado was reported to have made a $200 donation to Vision in 2014, but she has table #17 listed in her name at the $250 a plate Gala. Honrado’s name appears often in the Mayor’s Discretionary Fund (including several trips and she has claimed a long list of expenses). Honrado’s position in 2013 is listed as the City’s Director Community Relations; she had a salary of $68,446.26 and claimed expenses of just $14.19.
The Odyssey Night Club (Table #26), Rory Richards (#58), ACCESS (#60), All West Electric (#81) and Rising Tide Consultants (#90) are not in Vision’s list of donors.
There’s also the issue of not paying the full price for a table, let along for a plate. Bob Ransford is shown to have given Vision $31 while Jake Fry made a $120 donation; Bob Ransford and Jake Fry share table #23. There are a number of “Friends of…” tables (and similar ones like the Street Soccer Team) at the Gala that are not on the donors list; however, some of these tables may have been provided for free by Vision.
How about in-kind donations? Who paid for the Vision Gala venue? It’s entirely possible that Vision footed the bill; but could the venue of the Westin Bayshore Hotel have been provided as an in-kind donation or covered by another sponsor? If so, these donations should also be listed, at least in the final election disclosure statement, though some parties already included in-kind donations in their voluntarily published donor lists (the Green Party did).
Another prominent event may be missing: the donations from the infamous #25klunch, a $25,000 per plate fundraiser sponsored by condo king Bob Rennie in March, 2014.
The final campaign disclosure statements are due 90 days after the election and must be submitted to Elections BC by February 13, 2015.
A key reason for the release of campaign donors prior to the election is for public scrutiny. Vision Vancouver had 8 out of 11 seats on Council before the election, and ended up with 7. Despite a weaker performance in the 2014 election, they still kept most of the key powers of Council to themselves (all 7 Metro Vancouver Directors positions are filled by Vision Vancouver, as well as Deputy Mayor and Acting Mayor posts).
So with the voluntary donation disclosure, did the party mislead the public before the election? And if so, can the public expect better behaviour now that it continues to be the ruling party?
Did Vision mislead the public by under-reporting campaign contributions? If so, who is responsible at the organization for the integrity of reporting? We’ve listed 15 tables that had sponsored attached to them from the Gala that are not accounted for in Vision’s voluntary donor list. Will Vision’s membership ever find out the reason for the apparent discrepancy and will there be any transparency? Will anyone on the Vision executive take responsibility and make an internal investigation? Or will this issue with the accuracy of released information and Vision Vancouver’s governance be swept under the rug?
Anyone wanting to try and find out, perhaps you could try writing to Paul Nixey, the External Co-Chair of the party, and ask for responses. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: http://www.votevision.ca/contact.