ABC SEES PENALTIES AS THE ‘COST OF DOING BUSINESS’: TEAM PRESIDENT
VANCOUVER, Jan.4, 2024 -- ABC’s acceptance of more than $100,000 worth of prohibited financial contributions shows a pattern of cheating that Elections BC and the provincial government need to crack down on, says TEAM for a Livable Vancouver.
The penalties are too small and too late to level the playing field and keep big money out of local elections as the new Local Elections Campaign Financing Act was intended to do, says TEAM president Cleta Brown. “For ABC, the penalties seem to be the cost of doing business.”
She was commenting after ABC’s amended 2022 General Election Disclosure Statement (pages 68 to 70) revealed a long list of contributors – many of them recognizable names in the development industry – who broke the campaign financing rules. There were many “duplicate” donations, and many donations to multiple candidates (under the rules, individuals may donate only a set amount annually to a party or a candidate.)
Donors who contribute over the limit and electoral organizations that accept prohibited donations are each subject to a monetary penalty of up to double the prohibited amount.
The party financial agent through whose hands the contributions must pass is also subject to a penalty if the prohibited donation is not properly returned to the donor. B.C.’s Local Elections Campaign Financing Act requires the return of prohibited contributions to the contributor within 30 days of the party becoming aware of the contravention. According to ABC’s second amended disclosure, the money was returned to the donors as of Dec. 20.
No penalties have yet been announced.
B.C.’s Chief Electoral Officer makes the call on the amount of a financial penalty, if one is to be imposed. TEAM asks what behaviour by an electoral organization would merit the toughest monetary penalty, if ABC’s amassing a six-figure fund of prohibited contributions from 72 different donors over three years does not?
Brown called on the province and Elections BC to review the campaign-financing provisions to effectively deter parties like ABC from violating the rules and accepting prohibited donations. In this case, ABC kept them for more than a year before finally being required to return them to donors.
TEAM also believes there should be new rules barring Vancouver City Council members from voting on proposed developments if they have received contributions from the proponent.
TEAM has been working for months to bring the ABC over-contributions to the attention of Elections BC, exchanging numerous letters with the agency, and urging it to publicize the results of its findings.
See this post for more information on the rules broken.