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Mayor Kennedy Stewart breaks silence over donor list found by homeless man

Stewart: ‘We’re still looking into how that ended up on the sidewalk’
Mayor Kennedy Stewart held his first campaign news conference Tuesday since news broke last week of a homeless man finding his party’s donor list on a sidewalk near city hall.

A political party donor list found Sept. 13 by a homeless man that included the names of some of the city’s biggest developers belongs to Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s party, Forward Together.

After a week of his party remaining silent on whether the document belonged to Forward Together, Stewart acknowledged Tuesday that the two-page spreadsheet discovered on a sidewalk near city hall was the property of his party.

“We’re still looking into how that ended up on the sidewalk,” said Stewart in response to questions from Vancouver Is Awesome at the conclusion of a campaign announcement in the Downtown Eastside related to homelessness, mental health and addictions.

“Sounds like it was a careless mistake of some kind. But anyway, that doesn't really matter. What really matters is that we are abiding by Elections BC regulations and actually exceeding them.”

Stanley Q. Woodvine, a homeless man, found the spreadsheet last Tuesday afternoon near No Frills in the 300-block of Broadway. He took a picture of both pages and posted them on Twitter, which led to a series of stories from local and national journalists.

Vancouver Canucks' owner among donors listed

The pages revealed more than $270,000 in donations from 41 people, including Vancouver Canucks’ owner and property developer Francesco Aquilini ($64,350), Wayne Pai of Landa Global Properties ($22,489), Ajay Dilawri of auto retailer Dilawri Group of Companies ($20,153), veteran real estate marketer Bob Rennie ($12,500), Dak Molnar of the Molnar Group ($11,200), Concord Pacific CEO Terry Hui ($8,200) and Kerry Bonnis of Bonnis Properties ($3,750).

Each person on the list appears under the heading “captain” and each has a fundraising goal. For example, Aquilini’s goal is $110,000, Dilawri’s is $50,000 and Hui’s is $31,250.

The names Alvin and Neil appear under the “notes” heading on the spreadsheet. Two entries under “notes” — one connected to Rennie, another to Evan Allegretto of Intracorp Homes — say “NM to propose doubling goal on Sept. 12.”

Alvin Singh is the mayor’s director of communications and the party said he took a leave of absence Aug. 22 to run as a council candidate with Forward Together. Neil Monckton is the mayor’s chief of staff and took a leave of absence Sept. 10 to work for the party.

Woodvine’s post of the spreadsheet triggered TEAM for a Livable Vancouver to request the city’s integrity commissioner and Elections BC to investigate over concerns related to possible conflict-of-interest involving Stewart’s staff members.

The concern was shared by Kareem Allam, ABC Vancouver’s campaign manager, who called on Forward Together last week to confirm or deny the document belonged to the party and whether the mayor’s staff members played a role in soliciting donations.

“Members of my staff have not done that,” said Stewart in response to the allegations.

“This is a volunteer organization, Forward Together. We do have a few paid staff that, of course, ramp up through an election, but this is all voluntary activity in terms of fundraising. Any staff that volunteer that's, of course, allowed under the Vancouver Charter and the Charter of Rights. So we've made sure we've kept the lines clear there.”

Stewart said he has not been contacted by Elections BC or integrity commissioner Lisa Southern about the spreadsheet, which he described as a planning document. He also pointed out that Forward Together was the first party in the election campaign to publicly disclose its donors, which occurred last month.

Mayor met with developers in August

Coincidentally, many of the same names listed on the document found by Woodvine also appear in the mayor’s meeting calendar for August. The mayor’s calendar can be viewed on the city’s website.

Aquilini, Rennie and Bonnis, for example, are listed in the calendar but the topic of each discussion is not indicated. Asked Tuesday about those meetings, the mayor said they were related to housing and that he did not use the time with developers to solicit donations.

“If anybody tries to bring up anything like that in those conversations, I stop them right away because I just do the business of the city on city time,” he said, noting he has met with many people in the building community over his four-year term.

“And the reason I've done that is because I'm trying to both increase the amount of housing in the city, but also change it from condos to rental and social housing — and I couldn't do that without talking to the people that build the housing.”

More specifically, he said, the conversations in August were about his housing plan to approve 220,000 new housing units over the next 10 years. He announced the plan Sept. 13 in a building under construction by Jameson Development,

“It would be ridiculous to kind of make those promises without checking with the folks that do the building [to see] if that's even possible,” said Stewart, noting interest rates and vacancy control were also discussed in the meetings.

As for donations, Stewart said the average sum given to his party has been $175. New finance rules put in place in the 2018 campaign banned union and corporate donations. This year’s maximum allowable amount per individual is $1,250.

“The names donating to my campaign have been out there forever,” the mayor said. “I did check with my campaign team about the list [found by Woodvine], and all those names were previously disclosed…and it would be good if the other folks running in this election did the same thing because many have not yet.”

ABC Vancouver, which has raised at least $1.6 million, recently released its donor list and it includes similar names of corporate leaders that appear in Forward Together's list.

Under the law, candidates and parties don’t have to disclose donations until 90 days after an election but some parties in Vancouver have proactively disclosed donor lists and amounts in previous election campaigns.

Elections BC, meanwhile, said Sept. 16 in an email that “at this point, the origins of the spreadsheet are unclear and we have made no conclusions in this matter.”

A request made to the city’s communications department Sept. 16 to ask whether the integrity commissioner was investigating concerns raised by TEAM was not responded to before deadline.

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