The B.C. Liberal Party received millions more in contributions last year than the opposition New Democrats, but there’s one person who surprisingly did not make the list of donors – their leader, Premier Christy Clark.
Elections BC on Wednesday released the 2011 financial reports for the Liberals, as well as the provincial NDP and Conservatives.
All other Liberal leadership contenders, including cabinet ministers Kevin Falcon, George Abbott and Mike de Jong, donated to the party last year. But according to an Elections BC online database that includes donations from 2005 onward, there is no record of any donation by Ms. Clark to the party.
The lack of donations is in stark contrast to Ms. Clark’s predecessor Gordon Campbell, who donated thousands of dollars while he was premier. NDP Leader Adrian Dix has also been a regular donor to his party.
A spokeswoman said Ms. Clark was unavailable for an interview Wednesday. Her office would not comment, except to send a brief e-mail stating the Premier dedicates her time and efforts to keeping her party strong.
Norman Ruff, political science professor emeritus at the University of Victoria, said a donation from a party leader might be a drop in the bucket when it comes to total income, but such donations do carry weight.
“Symbolically, it doesn’t look good if the leader of a party doesn’t make a financial contribution,” he said in an interview.
The financial reports showed the Liberals, who have been sinking in the polls as the Conservatives rise, took in about $9.6-million in total income in 2011. Approximately $8.9-million of that came from political contributions. Nearly $5-million of the contributions came from corporations, while more than $3-million was courtesy of individuals.
Chad Pederson, executive director of the B.C. Liberals, said the party has received its traditional level of support so far in 2012. When asked about the Premier’s lack of donations, he, too, said she contributes her time and energy to the party.
The NDP reported total income of just more than $5-million, with political contributions accounting for $4.4-million of that figure. Individual donations made up $3.3-million of the contributions, while unions provided about $830,000. Corporations donated approximately $230,000.
The Conservatives, who in an Angus Reid poll earlier this week had pulled into a second-place tie with the Liberals, reported total income of $212,797. More than $210,000 of that was from political contributions.
Nearly all of the money raised by the Conservatives was from individuals, but $11,600 of the contributions was courtesy of corporations. The party has said it would ban donations to political parties from corporations and unions if it came to office.
When asked if it was contradictory for the party to accept donations from corporations, Conservative campaign manager Hamish Marshall said no.
“We didn’t say we wouldn’t take them. We said when we form government, we’ll ban them. But until that point, they’re still legal so we’re not going to fight with one hand behind our backs,” he said in an interview.
While the NDP’s level of support has remained relatively consistent – it was 43 per cent in the Angus Reid poll – the Conservatives have been luring voters from the Liberals’ right flank.
While voters appear to be jumping over, donors generally did not in 2011. Only a handful of the individuals who donated to the Conservatives previously donated to the Liberals.
Mr. Marshall said things are looking up for the party, however, since it raised four times more money last year than in 2010.
Conservative Leader John Cummins did not donate to the party in 2011. However, he did donate twice in the final quarter of 2010. Mr. Marshall said it’s worth noting Mr. Cummins is not earning a salary as a member of the legislature.
After a speech Wednesday night in Coquitlam, Mr. Cummins said his donation to the party is time.
"I am not paid by the party so I am putting [in]my 40, 50 and sometimes 60-hour weeks basically on my own dime," he said.
"I get some expenses from the party but nothing to closely cover what I am laying out. Obviously I didn't make a donation. The donation is there in time and a monetary contribution because a lot of my expenses I pay for myself."
With a report from Ian Bailey