B.C. civic parties have struggled to fund campaigns since the NDP government changed donation rules in time for the 2018 municipal elections, banning corporate and union donations and limiting personal donations. It has affected Vancouver City Hall's mayor and how he fundraises for his campaign.
DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press
Several prominent Vancouver developers confirm they have been asked by Mayor Kennedy Stewart’s re-election team to contribute to his campaign and solicit donations on his behalf, with fundraising targets specified for them.
The developers corroborated information in a spreadsheet found on a sidewalk near city hall by Stanley Woodvine, a homeless man who tweets about interesting documents he finds. The file lists 26 names, including Vancouver Canucks owner and Aquilini Investments managing director Francesco Aquilini; Concord Pacific chief executive officer Terry Hui; former city councillor Raymond Louie, who is now CEO of Coromandel Properties; and Wesgroup Properties president Beau Jarvis.
On the spreadsheet, those listed are designated as “captains” and beside their names are columns indicating targets ranging from $5,000 to $110,000, as well as the amount raised so far.
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Mr. Woodvine, who lives in a parking garage, said Wednesday that he picked up the two-page document earlier this week, ahead of the Vancouver mayoral election on Oct. 15.
While asking for political contributions is neither new nor controversial, the document has prompted Mr. Stewart’s political opponents to question whether the tactic of asking developers to act as fundraisers and meet declared targets is ethical. The list has also caused consternation from some of those who are on it.
B.C. civic parties have struggled to fund campaigns since the NDP government changed donation rules in time for the 2018 municipal elections, banning corporate and union donations and limiting personal donations. This year, the limit is $1,250.
Four people in the development community confirmed to The Globe and Mail that the document appears to be authentic because it matches requests and conversations they have had with the mayor’s team. To meet the targeted requests without breaking rules, the “captains” are encouraged to ask friends, family and people within their work networks to contribute up to the maximum amount.
A spokesperson for the mayor’s party issued a statement saying Mr. Stewart’s campaign has complied with all election rules. The statement did not directly address the document.
Reliance Properties CEO Jon Stovell, who is marked down to raise a target of $12,500, confirmed he was asked to meet that target but it “is not something I agreed to.” He is listed on the document as having raised only $2,500 so far toward the campaign. He said he gives money to every legitimate political party that will accept a donation from him.
The four people contacted by The Globe said the target amount that appears next to their names is not a number they suggested, committed to or, in one case, even knew about.
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The list also features a few non-developers, including former NDP cabinet minister Moe Sihota, former NDP party president Craig Keating and two women who work in tourism, hospitality and public relations.
The list does not specifically name the mayor’s party, Forward Together, but there are references to Neil, or NM, and Mark in the document. Mr. Stewart’s chief of staff is Neil Monckton, and his party’s executive director is Mark Hosak.
Mr. Monckton did not respond to a request for an interview. Mr. Hosak declined to directly address the spreadsheet.
The campaign manager for ABC, the party that is running Ken Sim for mayor, said while the document doesn’t indicate any laws were broken, the strategy challenges the spirit of the law.
“I don’t think it’s an Elections BC violation but, boy, when the mayor’s chief of staff is starting to lean on people he’s supposed to be regulating, that’s an ethical lapse,” Kareem Allam said.
Mr. Allam said ABC, like all political parties, asks people who are supportive to ask their friends and family to donate. He said his party has never asked anyone to get employees or colleagues to donate. He added that the idea of a target “crosses the line.”
Mr. Aquilini was listed with the largest target of $110,000, and the spreadsheet indicated he had raised the most at $64,750. A spokesperson for his company could not be reached by deadline.
Bob Rennie, prominent real-estate marketer, art collector and past chief fundraiser for the B.C. Liberal Party, is also on the list as having met the target of $12,500, with a note suggesting “NM to propose doubling goal on Sept. 12.” Mr. Rennie did not respond to a request for comment.
B.C. civic parties have tried to cope with the reduction in campaign donations that resulted from the 2018 rules by starting their fundraising early. Both Mr. Stewart and Mr. Sim have worked to raise money every year since the civic election four years ago.
A number of donors or groups have also come up with creative ways to donate without breaking the rules. In 2018, developer Peter Wall gave $85,000 to the campaign of mayoral candidate Hector Bremner during the period in September before the date that limits donations. (The NDP government extended the limitation period after that.)
Also in that election, negative campaign ads attacking mayoral candidates in Surrey appeared on Facebook with no information about who was paying for them.