Vancouver's two major civic parties have said they'll disclose their campaign donors next week, after vigorously resisting pressure to do so until now.
Representatives from the Non-Partisan Association and Vision Vancouver initially refused to commit Thursday morning to providing any public information on what has become an increasingly controversial issue in the city, as spending has spiralled wildly upward. The NPA raised about $2.8-million last time; Vision, $2.2-million.
Provincial legislation requires the names of civic campaign donors to be released, but not until three months after ballots are cast. During an editorial board meeting with The Globe and Mail on Thursday morning, NPA candidate Kirk LaPointe acknowledged "it's been a point of concern for me right from the start."
But Mr. LaPointe repeatedly defended his party's refusal to release the party's donor names or contributions earlier than the legislation requires, saying it would hurt the NPA's ability to raise money before the Nov. 15 election. And, he added, it was crucial for the party to raise a lot of money, since it was already in a tough competition with Vision.
"We had a bank account of five figures entering this race. Vision had already banked seven figures," Mr. LaPointe claimed.
Mr. LaPointe, who promised more transparency at the start of his campaign, said although the issue of opaque financing bothered him when he first decided to enter the race, he felt he had to withhold the names of contributors to avoid hobbling the party in its difficult fight. And he noted that donors had made their contributions under rules that said they would remain anonymous until after the vote.
Still, he couldn't explain why it would matter to contributors if their names came out earlier.
Shortly after Mr. LaPointe's exchange at The Globe, he called back to say the NPA would release the contributors. A news release soon followed.
At Vision Vancouver headquarters, the party's communications director, Marcella Munro, initially said the party wouldn't release any information.
"We're not going to put ourselves at a disadvantage," Ms. Munro said. "They are trying to avoid talking about the real issues in this campaign. This is just another way to distract and get you guys into their message box. They're doing a good job and congratulations, but it's not going to change our focus, which is to make sure the voters understand we are on their side when it comes to housing, affordability and transit."
A short time later, a news release came out from Vision, with a quote from Mayor Gregor Robertson: "Releasing the list of donors supporting our campaign is just one more way Vision Vancouver is running a positive and transparent campaign," said the news release. "The NPA's Kirk LaPointe has repeatedly refused to even release a fully costed platform."
Vision now pledges to provide its donors list by this weekend; the NPA by Nov. 7.
Critics of the current government have repeatedly said they believe decisions about development are influenced by who donates to Vision.
The B.C. government declined again this March to change campaign-finance rules, with the result that there are no donation limits or bans on corporate or union contributions in civic elections.
Vision councillors have lobbied the province for limits and bans, with other parties seconding that, but none of them has been willing to disclose financial details on their own until now.
COPE, the city's left-wing party, has also said campaign donations should be made public, but a spokeswoman said the party would release its information only if Vision did.
Sarah Beuhler said having only the NPA names made public wouldn't be good enough.
"Vision is the real target. It's really important for the democratic process that the big spender release it."
Green Party Councillor Adriane Carr said her party is prepared to release information as soon as possible. She said she thinks the Greens have raised as much as $40,000, but the party has rules that it doesn't take money from developers, fossil-fuel companies or non-Canadians, and won't accept more than $5,000 from any individual.