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RCO





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PostPosted: Mon Mar 06, 2017 9:36 am    Post subject: Elections BC probes BC liberal party fundraising Reply with quote

Elections B.C. probes Liberal Party fundraising


Kathy Tomlinson



The Globe and Mail


Published Sunday, Mar. 05, 2017 9:35PM EST



The governing Liberal Party in British Columbia is under investigation for its fundraising practices by Elections B.C., after The Globe and Mail revealed lobbyists are illegally funnelling money to the party – routinely – on behalf of corporate and special interests.

“I can tell you these are potentially contraventions of the Elections Act,” said deputy chief electoral officer Nola Western. “It appears to be a systemic problem that needs to be addressed.”

The independent body that enforces the province’s election laws said its probe will look at tens of thousands of dollars in multiple donations, made by power brokers such as Mark Jiles and Byng Giraud, who paid under their own names, with personal credit cards.


Both registered lobbyists acknowledged to The Globe they were actually buying Liberal fundraising tickets on behalf of their clients and companies, then getting reimbursed, which is against the law.

“That’s an indirect political contribution and that’s not okay,” said Ms. Western. “You can only make a political contribution with your own money – and you can’t be reimbursed.”

Mr. Jiles is an independent consultant, paid by numerous clients to lobby politicians to make decisions favourable to those clients. Mr. Giraud is the top in-house lobbyist for Woodfibre LNG, an Indonesian firm building a controversial liquefied natural gas plant near Squamish, B.C., which has recently been given government approvals and tax breaks.

The B.C. Liberals will also have to answer for how the party collects its donations, said Ms. Western. That’s because when anyone goes on the party website to buy tickets to a fundraiser, the first choice they have is to donate with their personal credit card – no questions asked.

“[The party] should know better,” said Ms. Western, adding the law says parties must determine whether a donor is an individual, a corporation, a non-profit or other type of donor, then report their contribution to Elections B.C. accordingly.

“The [party’s] financial agent is not allowed to accept that donation without collecting that information.”

Liberal Party spokesman Emile Scheffel acknowledged to The Globe when a donor uses a personal credit card, the party automatically records that as an individual donation.

“There has been confusion and we are working immediately to clear up that confusion,” he said.

The Globe asked for an interview with party leader and Premier Christy Clark, but was told she was not available.

Mr. Jiles and Mr. Giraud are among the biggest Liberal supporters on a list of 53 frequent donors, compiled by The Globe, who also gave multiple times under their own names. They are all lobbyists, executive directors and others who get paid to act for special interests.

The revelations about their funnelled donations come two months before the next B.C. election, which the Liberals will finance with a record $12-million raised by the party last year – much of that through heavily criticized cash for access fundraisers.

B.C. has no limit on how much any contributor can give or how often, making it a holdout and an outlier among other large provinces and the federal government, which have all put a cap on individual donations.

As a result of The Globe’s investigation, Dermod Travis of the watchdog group Integrity B.C. said he went back to the public record and now has questions about 359 donations, totalling more than $1-million, from people representing special interests who gave in their own names several times in the last decade.

“I looked at the ones that jumped off the page and do not fit the usual pattern of giving,” Mr. Travis said. “To have all this happening – and have no one say boo about it – speaks to the lack of regulatory oversight of political donations.”


He added that he doesn’t buy the recent numbers touted by the B.C. Liberals, which said their individual donations outnumbered those from corporations four to one. Mr. Travis now suspects many of those individuals were giving money illegally, on behalf of others.

“It is simply happening far too frequently with the same people far too much,” said Mr. Travis. “It throws an incredibly large chunk of their donations into question.”

Duff Conacher of the citizen advocacy organization Democracy Watch, who is viewing this from his base in Ontario, said B.C. is hurting its reputation by allowing what he calls “legalized bribery” by power brokers who are paid by special interests.

“If a big business was looking to buy off politicians, B.C. would be the place to go,” Mr. Connacher said. “The system B.C. has now is the best government money can buy – and that’s not democratic and it’s unethical and it looks really bad to the rest of the country.”

The B.C. Liberal Party said it will revamp its website immediately, to remind donors they can’t donate on behalf of others.

“We will take a look at how prevalent this seems to be and where Elections B.C. expresses a concern we will work to address this,” said Mr. Scheffel.

However, he wouldn’t say whether the party will contact individual donors to make sure their contributions weren’t recorded under the wrong name. The law requires the party to return any prohibited donations of that nature, and retrieve any tax receipts issued to those individual donors.

On Sunday, the leader of the B.C. Green Party called for the RCMP to also “launch an immediate investigation.”

“The [Globe] report raises very serious questions about influence peddling and corruption of our democratic process,” Andrew Weaver said, in a media release. “These disturbing practices must end.”

Charges are possible, but Elections B.C. said it’s too early to say whether any of this will be referred to police or the Crown.

“I think we have some work to do,” said Ms. Western.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....e34210991/
RCO





Joined: 02 Mar 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 9:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

B.C. Liberal Party says it has ‘nothing to hide’ on fundraising


Justine Hunter and Kathy Tomlinson

VICTORIA and VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail


Published Monday, Mar. 06, 2017 10:09PM EST



The governing B.C. Liberal Party says it has nothing to apologize for after a Globe and Mail investigation found that lobbyists are illegally funnelling money to the party on behalf of corporate and special interests.

“We have done nothing wrong, we have nothing to hide,” Deputy Premier Rich Coleman told reporters in Victoria.

However, in response to an Elections B.C. investigation of potential contraventions of fundraising laws, the party is issuing new warnings to its political donors against making indirect contributions.


The opposition New Democrats are also conducting a review to determine whether any of their donations violated the law.

The online fundraising page for the B.C. Liberals now includes a disclaimer, which will also be added to the party’s contribution forms, stating: “The Election Act prohibits individuals from being reimbursed for a political contribution by a company, organization, or other individual. Any donation using your personal credit card must be a personal contribution from you.”

The change comes just 65 days before the next provincial election, and after the B.C. Liberals reaped $12.4-million last year in contributions through lucrative cash-for-access fundraisers, including small, private dinners with Premier Christy Clark for $10,000 a plate or more.

Ms. Clark was not available for comment on Monday, but Mr. Coleman said it is up to donors to ensure they stay on the right side of the law.

“The people who are buying or donating to whatever political party in B.C., they have to follow the law and they need to know the law when they are making a donation,” said Mr. Coleman, one of the party’s key fundraisers. “For us to somehow reverse-audit that I think is pretty hard, I don’t think we’d have the resources for that.”

Elections B.C. launched an investigation into indirect political contributions and other potential contraventions of the Election Act as a result of a Globe and Mail report. The probe will look at tens of thousands of dollars in multiple donations made by power brokers such as Mark Jiles and Byng Giraud, who paid under their own names with personal credit cards. Both registered lobbyists acknowledged to The Globe they were buying Liberal fundraising tickets on behalf of their clients and companies and being reimbursed, which is against the law.

The agency says it may forward matters to the Criminal Justice Branch if it appears that the Election Act has been contravened.

With only two weeks likely remaining in the legislative session before this spring’s election campaign gets under way, the governing Liberals have promised to introduce a bill that would provide up-to-date reports on campaign contributions.

NDP Leader John Horgan told reporters on Monday that the promised enhanced transparency will do nothing to close the door on cash-for-access fundraisers that have allowed the B.C. Liberals to stuff their campaign war chest.

“It’s the influence that money is having on policy decisions that troubles British Columbians,” Mr. Horgan said. He added that he has asked his party officials to review the past three years’ worth of donations to determine if the NDP wrongly received money, but he said he was not too worried that it has been improperly enriched.

“This is not about the practices of the parties. It’s about a government that doesn’t see this ethical blind spot, and that is, they are taking massive amounts of money from people who need government decisions made in their favour,” Mr. Horgan told reporters.

The New Democrats were not alone in pressing the B.C. Liberal government to reform political fundraising.

Independent MLA Vicki Huntington called on the government to adopt a bill she has proposed that would limit the size of contributions people can make – a measure adopted in other provinces, including Ontario, Quebec and Alberta. “My legislation would also ban cash-for-access events and corporate and union donations, but only a hard cap would have stopped these lobbyists in their tracks,” she said.

The advocacy group Democracy Watch criticized B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer for “negligent” enforcement of the political donation rules, and said anyone found to have concealed lobbyist donations should be prosecuted.

The Registrar of Lobbyists is also calling for more stringent controls to ensure the public can see how government arrives at its decisions. “We want to bring lobbying out of the shadows,” deputy registrar Jay Fedorak said in an interview. He noted that lobbyists have no code of conduct in B.C., and the registry has little authority. “We want the public to know who is lobbying whom,” he said.

B.C. Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said the RCMP should handle the investigation because they would have greater powers to access information. “It’s shocking what is going on … We’d expect this in a tin-pot dictatorship in some island state in the middle of nowhere. This is B.C.”

http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....e34227754/
RCO





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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 12:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BC Liberals accept foreign donations, despite ban in parts of Canada


Justine Hunter and Kathy Tomlinson


VICTORIA/VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail


Published Thursday, Mar. 09, 2017 10:12PM EST



British Columbia’s governing Liberal Party routinely accepts significant donations from foreign interests – a practice that is banned in many other Canadian jurisdictions. The party’s overflowing campaign war chest includes cash from offshore oil and gas companies, European pharmaceutical companies and Beijing investment firms.

British Columbia has no residency requirement for political contributions from individuals or companies, but provincial Justice Minister Suzanne Anton said Thursday in an interview with The Globe and Mail that it’s an issue “worth keeping an eye on.”

Limiting foreign donations is not under consideration right now “but it is always something we are interested in,” said Ms. Anton, who will introduce legislation on Monday to improve transparency in political donations.

Gary Mason: BC Liberals’ stance on donations an insult to voters

“It’s not something we are proposing to do at the moment. I don’t think it’s a big influence in B.C. politics at the moment.”

Duff Conacher, co-founder of the advocacy group Democracy Watch, said the absence of controls on contributions from non-residents adds another dimension to B.C.’s already-weak regulation of political fundraising.

“If you don’t have a residency requirement, you leave the political process wide open to foreign interests affecting what goes on in the province,” Mr. Conacher said in an interview. “And their interests are very unlikely to be the same as the interests of voters in the province.”

On Saturday, a Globe investigation revealed that the BC Liberal Party collected tens of thousands of dollars in multiple donations from lobbyists who paid under their own names with personal credit cards on behalf of clients and companies and were reimbursed, which is against the law. Elections BC is now investigating.

B.C. also has no limits on contributions, and it allows union and corporate donations. That combination of policies has made the province lucrative for political fundraising, and the two main political parties, the Liberals and the NDP, have raised well in excess of the spending limits of $4.4-million each can spend in this spring’s provincial election campaign.

The Liberals raised $12.6-million in 2016, while the NDP raised $6.2-million.

The New Democrats have not released details of contributions in 2016, but the Liberals have adopted a “real time” disclosure system of donations.

Some of those 2016 donations include:
•A $10,000 donation from Sakuna Natural Resources Inc. The corporation is not registered as a company in B.C. or registered federally as Canadian company. Its location is unknown.
•Huamulan Developments Inc. gave the Liberals $5,000. It is owned by Beijing Huamulan Investment Ltd., a Chinese company that invests in construction of student apartments near colleges and universities.
•Mengfa International Resources Inc. gave $2,800. It is a B.C. registered company. However, its director, Xi Gao, has a Beijing address. Bloomberg Business also lists Mr. Xi as the chairman of Inner Mongolia Mengfa Coal and Charcoal Co. Ltd.
•The Orient Investment Corp. gave $1,000. It is not registered as a company in B.C. or registered federally as a Canadian company, and its location is unknown.
•The Liberals took $5,250 from Pacific NorthWest LNG. The majority owner is Petronas, the state-owned energy company of Malaysia, which is seeking to build a liquefied natural gas plant in northern British Columbia.
•Gukan Construction, owned by Kenny Gu, donated $12,800 last year. Mr. Gu is a real estate speculator who was featured in a Globe investigation last year. At the time, he acknowledged his business is bankrolled by wealthy Chinese businesspeople, who earn their living overseas, while investing in Vancouver real estate.

The NDP will file details of all 2016 contributions to Elections BC by the end of March, as required by law. Those details will later be released by the electoral agency. Glen Sanford, deputy director of the party, said he could find a total of $445 from individuals outside of the country in the party’s 2016 donations.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....e34262549/
Bugs





Joined: 16 Dec 2009
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 3:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's an election in BC in early May. This is just a way to take the issue off the table during the campaign, in my estimation.

As if sitting governments were ever any good at turning down donations/bribes. Money is the 'blood' of politics, after all.
RCO





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PostPosted: Sat Mar 11, 2017 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Investigation of political donations in B.C. referred to RCMP


Ian Bailey, Kathy Tomlinson and Justine Hunter


VANCOUVER/VICTORIA — The Globe and Mail


Published Friday, Mar. 10, 2017 1:10PM EST



British Columbia’s elections agency has referred its investigation into political fundraising to the RCMP, just weeks before the start of a spring election campaign.

Elections BC announced the probe after The Globe and Mail reported that the BC Liberal Party collected tens of thousands of dollars in multiple donations from lobbyists who paid under their own names with personal credit cards on behalf of clients and companies, and were reimbursed. An Elections BC spokesperson said such donations are “potentially contraventions of the Elections Act.”

The agency announced Friday it had handed off the file to the RCMP to ensure the investigation did not interfere with the administration of the May election, in which the Liberals are seeking a fifth consecutive term in government and the NDP a return to power for the first time since 2001.


RCMP spokeswoman Sergeant Annie Linteau confirmed that the Mounties had taken up the case after receiving a request from Elections BC to investigate “allegations of indirect contributions and other potential contraventions of the Elections Act.”

“We can confirm that an investigation into these allegations has been initiated and we will take the time necessary to conduct a thorough investigation,” Sgt. Linteau said in a statement.

Asked whether there was any possibility of the investigation being completed before British Columbians go to the polls on May. 9, Sgt. Linteau said in an e-mail exchange said she could not offer a timeline.

The development comes amid concerns over fundraising in a province with few rules covering campaign finance – a situation that has led to six-figure donations to the governing BC Liberals that are among the highest contributions in Canadian politics. The governing party has faced repeated calls to impose limits on who can donate and how much they can give, but Premier Christy Clark has rejected such changes.

Elections BC, which has said it is not focusing on any particular party, said in a statement that it may still provide support to the RCMP.

Ms. Clark attempted to play down the investigation, telling reporters in Kimberley, that it was focused on “people who broke the rules” rather than political parties. In fact, Elections BC has said the investigation involves not only donors, but also the financial agents of political parties that have received donations. The agency cited a section of the province’s Elections Act that requires parties’ financial agents to record information about contributors.

“I hope that they get to the bottom of it and whatever happens that everybody remembers we have rules around donations,” the Premier said. “They must be respected and if they’re not respected, you may be breaking the law.”

The Liberals have previously denied any wrongdoing, but also said it would “review and remedy issues” raised by The Globe’s reporting.

Ms. Clark has said her government will introduce legislation on Monday to implement “real-time” disclosure of campaign donations as previously promised. However, that bill will not limit donations to stem the cash for access that helped her party raise more than $12-million last year. The Liberals have been voluntarily posting weekly campaign donation updates on their website this year.

NDP Leader John Horgan, whose party raised $6.2-million in 2016, said in an interview that the Liberal government could go a long way to resolving the whole situation by adopting a bill he has tabled to eliminate corporate and union donations.

“If the Liberals don’t have the jam to do it [next week], we’ll do it after the next election,” Mr. Horgan said, adding that campaign finance is now on the agenda for the NDP.

The party is conducting an internal probe to determine if it received any indirect donations. Glen Sanford, NDP deputy director, said Friday that the party has contacted several individuals to ask if they gave donations that were later billed to an organization, but he said it has not heard back.

He said if the party doesn’t hear back by Monday, or if it learns there is a problem, the NDP will report those contributions to Elections BC. He said the party feels confident in its records and welcomes the RCMP investigation.

Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC, a non-partisan political watchdog organization, said he had no problem if the RCMP doesn’t conclude an investigation by election day because he expects the media, opposition and organizations such as his would elicit information to help voters assess what is emerging as a “ballot-box question.”

“I don’t think the RCMP should be forced to rush an investigation to suit an election timeline,” he said.

Earlier in the week, Mr. Travis said his organization had questions about more than 350 donations totalling in excess of $1-million from people representing special interests who gave contributions in their own names several times in the past decade. He said Friday that the number had increased to 430 and that he planned to share that information with the RCMP.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com.....e34266086/
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Elections BC probes BC liberal party fundraising

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