Elections B.C. has been asked to investigate political contributions made to the BC Liberals by high-ranking Kinder Morgan staff, including president Ian Anderson.
The democracy advocacy group Dogwood submitted a formal complaint to Elections B.C. this week after discovering a series of political donations from individuals connected to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project that received provincial approval in January 2017.
The complaint comes on the heels of a bombshell investigation by the Globe and Mail that revealed corporate lobbyists were illegally reimbursed for contributions made to the B.C. Liberals.
Donations from Kinder Morgan staff to the BC Liberals include:
- Ian Anderson, President, Kinder Morgan Canada: $7,300
- Gavin Dew, Stakeholder Engagement Specialist: $13,120
- Lexa Hobenshield, External Relations Manager: $3,725
- Stephanie Snider, consulting lobbyist: $1,000
“If Kinder Morgan reimbursed any of its staff or lobbyists for event tickets, tables at fundraisers or other political contributions, they broke the law,” Kai Nagata, communications director for Dogwood, said in a press release.
B.C. has long been criticized for having some of the weakest political donation rules in Canada. There are no restrictions on corporate, union or foreign donations and there are no limits on what individuals can contribute.
It is explicitly illegal, however, to donate on behalf of or conceal the identity of another individual or entity.
“I think the people that have been tuned into what’s going on have looked at the B.C. political donation system with horror for many years but it does appear that current government has really elevated this style of fundraising to an art form,” Nagata told DeSmog Canada.
“The big difference we’ve seen in the last week is the realization that in their greed these players have found a way to break one of the few rules we do have which is around “straw donors.’ ”
The B.C. Liberals raised $12 million in 2016, more than any other ruling provincial party in Canada and two-thirds as much as the federal Liberal Party, according to the Globe investigation.
Nagata said the massive amounts of corporate and foreign cash flowing into B.C. raise significant concerns about decision-making in the province.
“The fundamental question is whether politicians are governing in the public’s interest and the scale of infiltration of foreign and corporate money raises serious questions about whether that is the case.”
Dogwood calculates that prior to the approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline project, the BC Liberals received $771,168 in donations from project supporters including Kinder Morgan, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association and oilsands producers. The same group donated $51,210 to the BC NDP.
A recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Corporate Mapping Project found the B.C. government has been lobbied more than 22,000 times by the fossil fuel industry since 2010 and received $5.2 million in industry political donations between 2008 and 2015, 92 per cent of which went to the BC Liberals.
“Each of these examples highlights how politicians have turned this lack of laws and regulations to their advantage politically,” Nagata said.
Despite numerous calls to modernize B.C.’s political donation system, no changes have been made under the BC Liberals.
“People are starting to wake up and realize every decision this government has made, and contracts they’ve given out and billions in tax breaks they’ve awarded to donor companies — all of that is now in question.”
Andrew Weaver, leader of the BC Green party, said B.C. is running a “pay to play” system that prioritizes big donors.
“The fact that we have so much money going from so few fossil fuel companies to both parties — mostly the BC Liberals but also to the BC NDP — is part of the reason we have lost so many opportunities in B.C.,” Weaver told DeSmog Canada.
“I was the only MLA who took the time to be an intervenor in the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain hearings,” Weaver said. “The BC Liberals put out their five conditions for the project but never even outlined what it would take to meet those conditions.”
“B.C. politics is sick to the core because of this pay to play, because of lobbyists and corporate influence. People are being left behind.”
The BC Green party does not accept union and corporate donations.
“The ballot question this election is about trust: who do you elect to represent the people?”
“That’s a question for people who can vote: unions don’t vote and corporations don’t vote.”
Elections B.C. did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Image: Christy Clark annouces B.C.'s approval of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline. Photo: Province of B.C. via Flickr