How much is too much in political donations? (Commentary from IntegrityBC)

Dollars, credit Desmog blog Canadaby Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC.

The 2015 political donations were out this week and they contained some numbers that should cause a bit of unease. It’s not just the amounts that are of interest, it’s the running totals as well.

Since 2005, the B.C. Liberal party has raised more than $107.8 million, $70.2 million of it from businesses and corporations. The B.C. NDP, $55.9 million, with $38 million coming from individuals and $11.6 million from unions.

The Liberal party’s Million Dollar Club has grown.

Five companies and one association have now donated more than $1 million to the party, including EnCana ($1.1 million), the Aquilini Group ($1.2 million) and Teck Resources ($2.3 million).

The party’s top ten donors have given in excess of $11.7 million.

Party executive director Laura Miller gave $2,520 in 2015, Rich Coleman $300 and Premier Christy Clark $0.

Clark has donated $1,400 since 2005, Gordon Campbell $4,750.

The Bank of China gave $388 to the BC Liberal party in 2015. Seven banks topped that up by $799,000 over the past 11-years, including CIBC ($245,410) and TD Bank ($130,440).

B.C. credit unions got into the spirit of giving too, contributing $163,448 to the Liberals and $31,425 to the NDP.

You can always count on lobbyists to come through in a pinch.

They’ve donated more than $1.1 million to the Liberals, $80,629 to the NDP and $1,000 to the B.C. Green party.

Patrick Kinsella’s empire has given $271,266 to the Liberals, Earnscliffe ($133,000) and Hill & Knowlton ($72,380).

Over seven-years as a MLA, John Les donated $1,964 to the Liberals. In two-years as a lobbyist, he’s given $6,880.

Since 2014, three players in B.C.’s burgeoning LNG industry came through with $94,650 for the Liberals and two with $15,850 for the NDP.

Guess the Liberals got first dibs on building a prosperity fund from LNG.

Seven players with a keen eye for good public-private partnerships (P3) opportunities donated $310,690.

Borealis Infrastructure – part of the Ontario Municipal Employee Retirement Fund – bought $8,000 of seats at Liberal party fundraisers, bringing their total to $73,200 of seats, plus $17,150 in benches from the NDP.

According to OMERS policy, Borealis can’t make donations, but they can buy seats and benches.

Ten of the construction companies who do the heavy lifting for the P3 number crunchers donated $674,000, including Ledcor ($257,850), Kiewit ($105,975), PCL ($141,879) and Emil Anderson Construction ($52,910).

Coincidentally, Emil Anderson was awarded a $36 million contract by the B.C. government last month “for the second phase of six-laning on Highway 97 through Kelowna.”

Texas-based Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway donated $7,000 to the Liberals in 2015. CN Rail has given $295,760 over 11-years and CP Rail ($136,782).

Twenty-one law firms gave $1.35 million to the Liberals, not including donations from partners and associates.

Fasken Martineau Dumoulin was tops at $356,760.

The developers behind Vancouver’s Trump Tower – the Holborn Group – donated $25,000 to the Liberals last year and its sister company – TA Management – $25,000.

Both companies are part of Malaysian-based TA Global.

Since 2005, property developers have donated more than $10.7 million to the Liberals, including $1.55 million in personal donations or roughly 10 per cent of the party’s total $107.8 million haul.

The Liberals received $427,706 from trade associations in 2015 and the NDP $44,805.

Since 2005, the largest for both was the New Car Dealers Association of B.C. with $1.15 million for the Liberals and $82,790 for the NDP.

The Salmon Farmers Association has given $38,225 to the Liberals and $11,650 to the NDP.

Since 2005, the B.C. Road Builders and Heavy Construction Association has donated $147,639 to the Liberals and $2,500 to the NDP and the Christian Labour Association $2,780 to the Liberals.

Here’s a first: the Liberals are accepting donations from casinos through the front door instead of under it.

From 2005 to 2014, a senior employee of Great Canadian Gaming and Gateway Casinos donated $8,995 and $1,050 respectively to the Liberals.

In 2015, Gateway Casinos gave $67,397 to the Liberals, Great Canadian Gaming $31,468 and River Rock Casino $3,300.

If you’ve got this far, you may want to crack open a cold one and consider that over the last 11-years Canada’s National Brewers gave $153,779 to the Liberals and $35,525 to the NDP, Ontario’s Beer Store $96,974 ($6,670), Labatt $159,366 ($30,550) and Molson $121,257 ($24,225).

The donations of 193 companies and individuals were considered for this column. Together they donated $35.7 million and they’re not the Liberal party’s top 193 donors.

Knock off the 104 smallest and 89 donors gave $31.8 million to the Liberals.

In the same period of time, the Alberta Progressive Conservatives raised $31.75 million from all its donors (corporate, individual and union).

What would B.C. parties be left with if there was a total ban on corporate and union donations?

Over 11-years, the Liberals raised $37.6 million from individuals and the NDP $39.7 million, both more than the Alberta PCs raised in total.

The Liberal party has deposited enough to cover what its Quebec counterpart and its 125 candidates spent in the 2014 election 18 times over. Quebec has six million voters, nearly double the number in B.C.

Oh, there’s likely still four seats for sale at the premier’s table later this month in Prince George for the party’s annual dinner. They can be had for $25,000 a pair.

Dermod Travis is the executive director of IntegrityBC.

Note: Unless noted all figures in parentheses are for the period 2005 to 2015.

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