On September 13th 2022, a homeless individual, Stanley Q. Woodvine, came across a disturbing piece of paper that may determine the outcome of the race to be elected Mayor of Vancouver.
Someone — we don’t know who – had mistakenly dropped a 2-page spreadsheet which listed potential donor “Captains” and donation targets, featuring an astounding who’s who of the Vancouver development community.
Names on the list included Terry Hui, CEO of Concord Pacific, John Stovell, President and CEO of Reliance Properties; Bob Rennie of Rennie Marketing Systems; Ian Gillespie of Westbank; Beau Jarvis CEO of Wesgroup; Raymond Louie, CEO of Coromandel Properties; and Francesco Aquilini partner in the Aquilini Investment Group, to name just a few.
Those listed also included lobbyists and other local businesspeople.
Each development industry “Captain” was linked to a different overall donation goal amount, with the spreadsheet also noting the sum already contributed by each. The spreadsheet also tracked follow-up actions.
While the spreadsheet did not mention any political party, a number of people seeing Woodvine’s Twitter post about the incident speculated it came from Kennedy Stewart’s Forward Together.
After a week of silence, Stewart finally acknowledged that the spreadsheet belonged to his party.
Unfortunately for Stewart, the spreadsheet was found on the same day that he announced an aspirational housing plan for 220,000 homes over ten years. Some of the major developers who would be delivering on that housing plan were apparently currently raising money for Forward Together.
It also came to light concurrently that during the preceding August, Stewart as Mayor had had hour-long phone meetings with 15 of the individuals listed on the spreadsheet.
What made these revelations even more troubling was the fact that as Mayor, Kennedy Stewart had repeatedly argued against undue developer influence at City Hall.
As you may know, in 2017 the provincial NDP government amended the law on campaign contributions. Corporate and union donations were banned, and no individual would be legally permitted to donate more than a total of $1200 (now $1250) to any political party. This piece of very progressive legislation was intended to bring an end to the days of developers and unions using substantial campaign donations to exercise influence over those they helped elect.
Formerly large donors are now allegedly attempting to circumvent this cap by giving bonuses to their employees with an understanding that the bonuses are to be used by the employees to donate to a specific candidate or party.
In response to situations such as this, a number of cities, states, and countries have taken an interest in publicly funding election campaigns. Federal parties in Canada already receive significant public funding through per-vote subsidies and reimbursement of electoral expenses. Like BC, some provinces, such as Ontario, have moved to limit donations and third-party spending.
In 2010, the BC government published a paper on Public Financing for local government elections. Their conclusion was that more research and analysis was required.
Since then, while the current model of private political financing has been tweaked and some public funding has been implemented in the province, the overall model has not been changed.
The Forward Together spreadsheet makes it clear that potentially large donors who work with City Hall continue to raise significant election funds.
It is clear that the provincial government must now go the next step and do away entirely with private campaign contributions.
It is time to level the playing field and take wealth out of the election equation.
Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]
Latest daily total (Sept 30, 2022): 415.67ppm
One year ago (Sept 29, 2021): 413.63ppm
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