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NPA raises $837,207 in push to win Vancouver election

Donors include developers, prominent business people
NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim and his party have raised more than $837,000 since Jan. 1 in their campaign to win the Oct. 20 civic election. Photo Dan Toulgoet

Developers and prominent business people are among more than 4,400 people who helped the Non-Partisan Association raise $837,207 in its ongoing campaign to get its mayoral candidate Ken Sim and 19 other candidates elected in the Oct. 20 election.

Robert Macdonald of Macdonald Development Corporation, Ian Gillespie of Westbank Corp., Future Shop founder Hassan Khosrowshahi and several members of the Gaglardi family all donated a maximum of $1,200 each to the NPA’s campaign; Tom Gaglardi owns the NHL's Dallas Stars.

The party released its donor list Tuesday and it revealed more than 360 of the donations totalled the maximum allowable contribution of $1,200, although some contributors also gave $1,200 to the separate school board campaign, which is allowed under new campaign finance rules.

The grand total of donors, the party said, was 4,460 people.

“We were anticipating to raise more, but it’s been very difficult,” said NPA president Gregory Baker, referring to new campaign finance rules that ban union and corporate donations and limit donations to a maximum of $1,200.

In the 2014 civic election, the NPA raised about $2.4 million while its rival, Vision Vancouver, spent $3.4 million on a campaign that led to Mayor Gregor Robertson and his party winning another majority at city hall. The goal of the new campaign finance rules was to get the so-called big money out of politics.

For the most part, Baker said, the new rules have had a direct effect on corporate donations, although he acknowledged owners of companies are making individual donations to the party. That was expected, as it was with parties who traditionally rely on union donations, he said.

But, he added, the support independent mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart and 26 other candidates for council, school board and park board are getting from the Vancouver and District Labour Council is “a clear attempt to circumvent” the new finance rules.

The labour council has spent more than $25,000 on brochures and social media advertising and is paying the salaries of four workers seconded from their respective unions to work on the campaign to get Stewart and the other candidates elected.

Stephen von Sychowski, the president of the VDLC, and spokesperson Andrew  Watson of Elections BC told the Courier last week that the labour council’s work is allowed under the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act.

Baker pointed out the NPA has four staff, too, but their salaries are being paid for with some of the $837,207 raised by the party. Other costs paid for by the party include advertising, printed materials, rent for two offices, signs and internet charges.

In April, when the NPA was accused of circumventing the Act by accepting separate and unlimited donations for operating expenses, the provincial government amended the rules to ensure that union and corporate donations could not be used to fund any expenses of elector organizations during the year of a general election.

“It’s odd that [the government is] not addressing this issue with the same speed at which it addressed the previous one in April,” Baker said of the provincial government’s response to the VDLC connection in the campaign.

Stewart told the Courier Tuesday that his campaign has raised close to $200,000, without the support of the VDLC. He said his campaign and the VDLC campaign are independent of each other. He also noted Municipal Affairs Minister Selina Robinson has promised to review the finance rules after the election.

“I’ve said all the way along that I support that review, especially when it comes to spending in the pre-election period,” he said. “So I look forward to that. But at this point, with 11 days left, we’ve got what we’ve got.”

As for independent candidates who say the current set-up gives Stewart an advantage, he pointed out that some of the independent candidates complaining about the VDLC connection were also interviewed by the labour council in hopes of being endorsed.

“You can’t really have it both ways,” he said.

Stewart has regularly updated his website with the full names of donors and the amount they contributed to his campaign; the NPA listed their donors’ surnames, but only the first initial of their first name.

Stewart said he wasn’t surprised by the amount of money the NPA raised and that a big chunk of it was the result of $1,200 donations.

“They’re a right-of-centre party, so their supporters have deep pockets and 1,200 bucks is nothing,” he said. “So I’m not really surprised by that, but it does send a clear signal that progressives have to work together here to keep the NPA out—just because of the huge spending advantage they still have.”

Meanwhile, a Research Co. public opinion poll released Tuesday showed Stewart remains ahead of the NPA’s Ken Sim in the mayoral race, with 34 per cent of decided voters saying they will cast a ballot for Stewart and 20 per cent for Sim.