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Five Seriously Disturbing B.C. Political Donations

The 2014 financial reports from B.C.’s political parties are out and my face hurts from all of the eyebrow raising.

Donations to political parties from corporations are banned federally, but here in B.C. — the wild west of political donations — the corporate cash is free-flowing.

Here are the Top 5 disconcerting revelations from this year’s disclosures. (Thanks to Integrity BC for drawing my attention to many of these.)

1) Let’s start with the $40,950 that accounting firm KPMG gave to the BC Liberals in 2014. KPMG is the company BC Hydro hired to “independently review” the costs of the $8.8 billion Site C dam. The B.C. government has pointed to the KPMG report to defend its decision to ignore an expert recommendation to send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review.

Since 2005, KPMG and its related companies have given $284,994 to the BC Liberals and $13,150 to the NDP.

2) In the words of IntegrityBC’s Dermod Travis “the 2014 Award for Incredibly Bad Taste in Donations goes to Imperial Metals, owners of the Mount Polley mine.”

The mining company donated $7,150 to the Liberals, including a $1,500 cheque in October and another for $250 in November, in the months following the company’s enormous Mount Polley tailings dam failure.

“The spill may have been toxic, but Imperial's cash wasn't,” Travis quipped.

3) Oil and gas transportation companies got in on the action, too, with Kinder Morgan ($4,500), TransCanada Pipelines ($5,600), Coastal GasLink Pipeline ($12,500) and Enbridge Northern Gateway ($13,450) all filling up the Liberal’s bank account.

Woodfibre LNG, which is proposing a liquefied natural gas export terminal in Howe Sound, gave $28,000 to the Liberals and $8,000 to the B.C. NDP. Woodfibre also spent more than $18,000 on newspaper and radio ads in Squamish during the November 2014 local election.

4) As the high-stakes Metro Vancouver waste debate raged on last year, BFI Canada gave the Liberals $91,300 and Belkorp Environmental Services gave $37,200.

Those companies didn’t like Metro Vancouver’s garbage plans, so they also hired lobbyists to pressure the provincial government. According to B.C.’s Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists, Belkorp hired John Les, former MLA for Chilliwack, and BFI hired lobbyist Dimitri Pantazopoulos, who was the Liberals’ chief pollster during the 2013 provincial election.

5) Perhaps the most bizarre donation of all is one for $28,750 from the Alberta Newspaper Group to the Liberals.

Alberta Newspaper Group has no papers in B.C., but is run and partially owned by British Columbian David Radler. Yes, that David Radler. The one who went to jail, along with his business partner Conrad Black, after being convicted of defrauding their company Hollinger Inc.

Alberta Newspaper Group is a subsidiary of Glacier Media, which owns the Victoria Times Colonist. Radler was named the acting publisher of the Victoria Times Colonist a year ago.

Radler also runs Continental Newspapers, which publishes the Kelowna Daily Courier and Penticton Herald.

As traditional media players face unprecedented hardships to stay alive, it’s a wonder how any newspaper company can afford to scrounge up tens of thousands of dollars to curry political favour.

Sadly, this is far from the first time a B.C. media company has donated to a political party. In 2013, Postmedia — which owns the Vancouver Sun and The Province — donated $10,000 to the BC Liberals. In 2009, Glacier Media gave $100,000 to the Liberals. And between 2006 and 2011, Black Press — which owns more than 70 community newspapers in B.C.— contributed $5,430 to the BC Liberals.

It’s exactly the kind of impropriety that would typically set the press off on a feeding frenzy — alas, the only organizations to escape the news media’s often savage scrutiny are the news media themselves.

Photo: Mary Crandall via Flickr

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Emma Gilchrist is a reporter, editor, public speaker and spreadsheet-keeper. She started her journalism career more than 15 years ago…

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