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Major B.C. civic political parties investigated for 'potential' prohibited contributions

ABC Vancouver and Burnaby Citizens Association among the largest civic slates being probed for possible campaign financing violations.
Mayor Ken Sim with chief of staff, Kareem Allam, at a council meeting in December 2022.

Several major B.C. civic political parties from 2022 are being investigated for “potential contraventions,” including accepting prohibited contributions, failing to rectify those prohibited contributions and sponsoring election advertising without an authorization statement, Elections BC announced Thursday in an online statement.

Each party will be investigated independently, said Elections BC, which did not specify what potential contravention each party faces specifically, only to say that the investigations are related to “one or more” of the contraventions.

Vancouver Mayor Ken Sim’s party A Better City Vancouver (ABC Vancouver) is among those being investigated. Vancouver parties Civic Non-Partisan Association (NPA), Vision Vancouver, Forward Together and Progress Vancouver are also under investigation.

Langley Mayor Eric Woodward’s party Contract with Langley is under investigation as is the NDP-affiliated Burnaby Citizens Association, which gained a majority on council in 2022.

Elsewhere, former Surrey mayor Doug McCallum’s party Safe Surrey Coalition Society, which has two members on council and Surrey First Electors Society, which also has two elected council members, are under investigation.

In Richmond, the Richmond Community Coalition, which elected Coun. Chak Au, will also have to answer to investigators.

“If potential contraventions are unsubstantiated, Elections BC will confirm that the elector organization is in compliance with [the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act]. If potential contraventions are substantiated, the elector organization will be subject to enforcement action, which can include administrative monetary penalties,” the independent government-sanctioned agency stated.

The maximum monetary penalty that may be issued is double the amount of prohibited contributions.

Elections BC may also deregister a party and suspend a person, as was the case last year with Progress Vancouver mayoral candidate Mark Marissen. However, what is being investigated here is not subject to such bans, spokesperson Melanie Hull clarified.

Last year, Elections BC cited Progress Vancouver for multiple violations: taking a non-permissible loan of $50,000; receiving donations without reporting the required information (missing or incomplete contributor names and addresses); prohibited campaign contributions from outside B.C.; and contributions more than the annual limit.

Elections BC provided a summary of basic campaign contribution rules:

  • In local elections, only someone who is a resident of British Columbia and a Canadian citizen or permanent resident can make a campaign contribution.
  • Organizations are prohibited from making campaign contributions.
  • Campaign contributions from eligible individuals are limited annually. In 2022, the annual contribution limit was $1,250 per campaign.
  • Contribution limits apply to an elector organization and its endorsed candidates. For example, in 2022, a contributor could not give more than $1,250 in total to an elector organization and all of its endorsed candidates. 
  • If a financial agent becomes aware that a prohibited contribution was made, they must return it within 30 days of becoming aware of it.

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