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The $5-million civic election comes to Vancouver

March 13th, 2009 · 8 Comments

Not all the financial disclosures are in yet — still waiting for many of the Non-Partisan Association candidates — but there’s now enough in to show that the spending reached unbelievable new levels.

Vision Vancouver spent almost $2 million, as I report in the Globe this morning. (The documents will be filed with the city later today and likely put up on the website Monday, for those who want to study the entrails closely.) The NPA, as I reported earlier, says it raised and spent $1 million, but mayoral candidate Peter Ladner raised and spent $240,000 (of which $40,000 was transferred to the party) and the other 10 mayoral candidates must have raised and spent at least another $300-500,000 among them. It’s a bit hard to figure out the NPA finances in a quick scan because there are money transfers among the candidates and from candidate to party. As well, their documents don’t say what they consider their election-financing period to be.

It looks like close to $1 million was spent by the five candidates who ran for mayoral nominations for their parties: $240,000 for Raymond Louie, almost $200,000 for Gregor Robertson, $74,000 according to Allan DeGenova’s preliminary but never finalized numbers (which everyone thinks are much higher), $158,000 for Peter Ladner at the NPA and then an amount we’re never likely to know from Sam Sullivan, who has not been required to file by either his party or the current rules at city hall.

I found Raymond Louie’s disclosure the most surprising. I think, given the level of baying about his campaign expenses here and there, that people were expecting he’d been bankrolled by the development community. Certainly, many developers I’ve talked to felt like they knew Raymond better than Gregor and liked his understanding of the development industry. Instead, it looks like his quarter-million-dollar mayoral campaign (ouch) was funded heavily by many Chinese community members who don’t normally get involved in politics.

A Fred Wang, whom Raymond described to me as a businessman who has worked with the Taiwanese cultural festival, gave $80,000. Another Taiwanese festival/businessman type, Charlie Wu, gave $10,000. Two other donors, former bankers in the community, Brian Lo and Chong Yeung, each gave $10,000. Raymond’s mother, Sue, put in $20,000 and Raymond himself put in $10,000. What I spotted from the developer set in my scan: Concord Pacific ($5,000); Rize Alliance ($7,000); Joe Segal($3,000), architect James Cheng ($5,000), the Walls, under various company names ($4,000). On and Raymond’s union, the Communication Energy and Paperworkers, put in $5,000.

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  • Hi Frances,

    I think we may be saying this was the $6-million election once the final numbers are in.

    In 2005, the three parties electing candidates spent more than $4.5 million to win the 27 seats up for grabs (see http://www.thinkcity.ca/node/144 for the breakdown). And this was without a million dollar mayoral nomination fight at Vision and the NPA.

    Whatever the final number for 2008’s contest, Vancouver’s elections will be almost five times more expensive on a cost per voter basis than a federal election. Between 1996 and 2005, civic election spending has more than tripled. Our elections are inequitable. And yet all three parties — COPE, Vision and NPA — have repeatedly asked for changes to be made to election financing since 2004, but the pleas have fallen on deaf ears in Victoria.

    With a provincial election this spring, the question the public (and the civic parties) needs to ask is what are the BC Liberals and BCNDP going to do to clean this mess up?

  • Vancouverism

    Hi Neil,

    Just as a follow-up to your comment…
    How much of the $240,000 Raymond Louie raised covered your fees to run his campaign?

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Notwithstanding Neil’s “interesting” post (and Vancouverism’s spot-onand hysterical, comment),
    some observations…

    1) Regardless of whether it’s five or six million, that’s an obscene amount of money for any group of civic parties to spend on one election. Remember, these are the same people who weep for the poor and downtrodden and cry for the addicted and mentally ill. Pathetic. They should all start a fund or we should all band together to seed a fund that will go towards a concerted effort to tackle our problems. Oh, sorry, I forgot, who’s picking up the wire mesh and pails, because I’m collecting the chicken feed at 5pm. Idiots.

    2) 200K (the 40K to the party excluded) for Peter’s campaign seems almost too much. This shows that they really didn’t spend in all the different media venues. It just didn’t seem like Peter’s exposure was what it could have been. For $200K; targeted buys would have been a more clever expenditure–that’s what GRegor was doing and he was the favourite!

    3) $1M for the NPA is about half of what they would have needed to spend to have been competitive. It is unsurprising since on of their backroom battle-axes was busy telling all her minions to cut back and reduce spending where they could. Not good when one of your senior people is telling everyone they will win and the other is acting like you don’t even have a hope. Too bad Ransford didn’t have complete license on the campaign. But that’s what you get when you have federal Liberal operatives running a municipal campaign like they would run a riding election. (Same thing happened to poor Al…see below)

    4) Al DeGenova submits but Sam Sullivan is still hiding…poetic, no? Kudos to Al for submitting his spending. Jeers for allowing himself to be co-opted by a group of people who despite the school bus diesel fumes from Surrey, could manage more than 1000 people in the room–and spare me the excuse that Peter’s win delated Al–that’s horse shit. Al attached himself to some of the most toxic organizers in Liberal history. Ian Baillie being the exception.

    5) Raymond Louie should not have to explain where his donors are from…he is probably the best Asian representative in the City’s history. Raymond and I will not agree on everything perhaps, but he cares very deeply for this city, is married to a wonderful woman, is a caring family man, who’s people wanted him to get elected. So, someone wrote him a cheque for 8oK? Big deal, I surprised it wasn’t double…judging from Gregor’s targetted expenditures, maybe if Raymond had more competent people on his campaign target some more spending, the outcome would be different..

    Ok, perhaps not…

    There is no question we need to corral this obscene amount of money that goes into securing 50K a year jobs…but ALL the Victorians want is to see Vancouver for the voter-rich pool it is every four years…pretty pathetic.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Sam Sullivan should be made to answer the following question:

    Since you will not submit your financials, and there remains a cloud over your “stellar” run as Mayor, please answer the following:

    Did your pre-election fund (which also paid for super not-so-secret agent George Higgins and other “unknown” expenditures) ever receive any monies from Millennium Development? If so, on what dates were those monies received?

    Thanks Shammy.

  • Daisy Wood

    AG, you’re such a hypocrite! Why don’t you go running after Greggy and ask him about his donations from Millennium and the 60,000 taxpayer dollars going to political P.R. firms, or the many secret meetings they’ve held already, or changing the Vancouver Charter without a public referendum, or the gobs of cash they took and continue to take from CUPE, or the U.S. corporations bankrolling this guy, or the walkback on tasers, or wanting to turn City Hall into the set of Hee Haw, or the many experienced people being pushed out of key positions, or pick any of the other idiotic things this mayor and council have already done. There’s plenty there to keep you and a whole stable of writers busy for months!

    Your constant beligerent bile over Sam Sullivan and the NPA and Suzanne Anton is very old and very tired.

    Give it a rest. Time to find a new schtick.

  • ptak604

    Yes, poor little Sam and the NPA. Why would anyone want to hold them accountable for years of mismanagement, cronyism and thoughtless political direction?

  • Wagamuffin

    Daisy,

    I was going with the “Green Acres’ allusion, myself.

  • A. G. Tsakumis

    Um… Daisy…you’re clearly out of your dukes…

    If bothered to read my most recent column, you would see three of your “complaints” prominently noted.

    My “bile” about Sham is hardly belligerent. He got away with more than any other Mayor in history. You clearly like him. That’s nice.

    Suzanne is a miserable failure, thus far, as councilor. She gets good advice week after week and then couldn’t message her way out of a wet paper bag. I’m not being belligerent, I’m just holding both her and Sam into account.

    Here is a woman who wants to know if the current Mayor has “gone around” council. Dear God, Suzanne spent THREE YEARS attached to Kimbo and Lizzy, all of whom defended Sam’s insane rambling and malignant going around of council.

    As for the Vancouver Charter, it was a unanimous pass from Victoria to Vancouver, in case your were still away in Sullivanland…

    Thanks for sharing. Hope the meds help..