To put this figure into perspective, this is more money than the total amount spent by the Vancouver Greens, One City, Public Education Project, the Cedar Party or Vancouver 1st on their respective 2014 election campaigns.
Current B.C. legislation for municipal elections allows unlimited campaign donations from any source. There are absolutely no restrictions on the amount donated, though donations that exceed $50 must be declared. Corporate and union donations, of any amount, are allowed. Voters need to remember that political donations are often not based on simple generosity, charity, or support for a concept. The money may often come with some kind of expectation of benefit or privilege for the donor.
Voters are well advised to scrutinize local connections and interesting affiliations with the out-of-town donors. Caroll Newell, heiress of the Rubbermaid fortune, provided Vision with $25,000 in funding via a Halifax-based company. She is a founding member of Renewal Partners, an organization that includes Joel Solomon and Vision Vancouver executive member Martha Burton. Ms. Newell is described as an “active member of Hollyhock” on Cortes Island, and a number of connections of this group to Gregor Robertson are well documented (see for example, How the Vancouver mayor’s BFF Joel Solomon is changing the way people do business, Oct 3, 2013, Kate Webb, MetroNews).
A number of real estate developers donated via firms outside of B.C. For example, Edgar Development donated $3,500 through a Calgary-based company. Lo and behold, on March 3, 2015, Vancouver City Council voted to approve the rezoning of Edgar Development’s high density (8.66 FSR) 14-storey tower at 275 Kingsway (Councillors Affleck and Carr were opposed). Boffo gave Vision $5,000 by means of a Calgary-based firm. Lo and behold, the controversial Boffo tower proposal at Venables and Commercial would require the sale of a City-owned parking lot. This site is one of the flash points of the ongoing Grandview-Woodland Plan. City Council may consider whether to allow this rezoning to proceed before the Community Plan is completed.
Keg Restaurants, with its offices based in Toronto, donated $40,000. David Aisenstat’s name appears as one of the executives who allowed Keg’s donation. In addition, Mr. Aisenstat also gave Vision $100,000 as an individual. Mr. Aisenstat’s name also appears with two local donors: The Charles F. White Corporation ($75,000) and the Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House ($15,000). Lo and behold, City Council has moved recently to extend restaurant patio hours. As well, public land leases for new restaurants are coming up (watch for future land deals, possible heritage transfers with some of these companies).
Earnscliffe is a lobby group that has ties to the federal Liberals, and has donated to both the B.C. Liberals and NDP. Vision Vancouver director Brittney Kerr is employed by the firm (she also has lobbied for Uber and for Fish Farmers). Marcella Munro formerly worked for the Ottawa-based Earnscliffe corporation. It gave Vision $5,250. The establishment of a lobbyist registry was a topic that came up during the 2014 election. Why has there been no movement on this topic?
Money from big labour also flowed in from Ottawa. The Canadian Labour Congress cut a cheque for $30,000 while Unifor provided a $15,000 donation to Vision.
What is the real motivation for organizations giving large political donations from outside of British Columbia? Can it be for anything other than influence? Here’s a list of some of Vision’s donors in 2014 from outside of B.C.: