Vancouver’s once-powerful centre-right party has blown past the combined fundraising of every candidate and party on the left with almost $840,000 in reported donations so far this election year.
The number is less than half what the Non-Partisan Association (NPA) raised in the last election year in 2014, but that was before the provincial government dramatically overhauled the rules for political fundraising after the NDP won the provincial election last year.
The new law bans corporate and union donations and limits individual donations to $1,200 for any one party or independent candidate. The NPA list of donors, released on Tuesday, shows that the party got the maximum $1,200 donation from 363 people, for more than $435,000, while another 4,100 provided almost $400,000.
The new rules have reduced the wild fundraising of previous elections. In 2014, Mayor Gregor Robertson’s Vision Vancouver party raised $3.4-million, while the NPA brought in $2.5-million.
But the NPA is showing that it is still able to tap into significant cash. Its fundraising far exceeds that of the party started by its former council representative, Hector Bremner, whose just-released donor total is slightly more than $175,000.
In comparison, the NPA’s main opponent on the left, former NDP MP Kennedy Stewart, who resigned his seat in Parliament to run for Vancouver mayor, has raised about $150,000.
However, many candidates and political observers have raised concerns that third-party donations are still largely unregulated and that unions are able to spend unlimited amounts on contacting their members to urge them to vote for candidates endorsed by the Vancouver and District Labour Council.
Among the NPA donors are a a number of people in the development and business communities in Vancouver.
Peeter Wesik of prominent developer Wesgroup Properties and four others with the same last name each gave $1,200, as did eight people with the Gaglardi family name. Developers Ian Gillespie, Rob Macdonald, Simon Lim, Hassan Khosrowshahi and his wife, Andre Molnar and Azim Jamal are all on the list. So are Hank Ketcham of West Fraser Building Supplies, and Brian Scudamore of I-800-GOT-JUNK.
The flush state of the NPA’s campaign account is a result of people in the city wanting to support a new council, NPA strategist Mike Witherly said. “The fact that we have this many people contributing is a sign there’s appetite for change in Vancouver,” he said.
But people on the left side of the political spectrum say it’s just another example of how the better-off can still influence elections.
“They represent the wealth and the wealthy have money to spend,” said Shauna Sylvester, who is running as an independent mayoral candidate hoping to work with parties considered to be on the left in city politics: COPE (the Coalition of Progressive Electors), OneCity, the Green Party and Vision Vancouver.
Ms. Sylvester said she has raised about $107,000, although she hasn’t released a donor list yet.
COPE organizers say they have raised $110,000, while OneCity is at around $60,000 and the Greens have reported about $65,000 in total donations. Vision Vancouver organizers did not have a total on their fundraising yet but said that it is nowhere near the NPA.
All the parties are reporting their donations from the beginning of the official campaign year, Jan. 1.
None of the left-wing parties have included the amount that various unions are spending in Vancouver to support the list of 27 candidates that the Vancouver and District Labour Council has endorsed.
The unions and labour council are limited to spending no more than $26,500 apiece to advertise for all of Vancouver council, school board and park board candidates. But there is no limit on how much they can spend employing paid staff to contact their union members about candidates they support.