CityCaucus.com speaks with NPA Treasurer Brian DeMuy on campaign spending and revealing the numbers
We caught up this week with the Vancouver NPA's Treasurer Brian DeMuy on the matter of the NPA's books, campaign spending and the subject of disclosure. In the 2005 election the campaign expenditures of both Vision Vancouver and the NPA were well over $1.5 million each. Past NPA boards have made it a firm policy not to leave the party with any debt after an election. This is partly due to the optics – a so-called "fiscally responsible" political group should manage its own finances well to be credible to its supporters. It's also partly because no NPA director wants to be personally liable for the debt carried by the organization.
As we reported at the time of the NPA's annual general meeting, DeMuy stated that the organization again remains in the black despite a costly campaign. He obliged our request to answer a few more questions about the NPA's books.
The Courier's Allen Garr is reporting that Vision Vancouver is carrying a significant debt of $400,000 after the fall campaign. Can you confirm that the NPA is debt-free?
Yes. While on the day of the AGM we didn't have our final financial statements completed, I can confirm that the NPA is in the black. It's no secret to anyone who campaigned last year that campaign donations were extremely hard to come by due to a slowing economy. There was also the provincial by-election and the federal campaign competing for dollars, as well the nomination contests in the Spring were very expensive. It felt like the well was practically dry by October, but we made it through.
How much did the NPA spend on this campaign?
We are still mopping up expenses and reconciling our accounts, so I don't have the final numbers. It will all be there in black and white when we file our disclosure to the City. Though I was not a member of the NPA board during the previous election, I can say that we spent less than in 2005.
A lot less?
Less. Like I said, we'll have all the numbers in for the public to view and then people can get their calculators out to see what it cost.
Any comments on Vision's $400,000 debt? They won, so it wasn't it worth racking up the Visa card?
I've already got one mortgage, thanks. That's something I said at every NPA board meeting: no debt. We, as a volunteer organization, care deeply about civic affairs and getting the best candidates in office, but shouldering 400K, or whatever the number is too much to ask of any volunteer group. I don't envy their situation.
What was your biggest surprise during the fall election?
Besides getting one seat on Council (chuckles)? Your biggest costs during an election are staff and advertising. That's why having good volunteers is critical. When it came to advertising we decided to buy some outdoor ads again. We heard through the grapevine that Vision hadn't bought any billboards, which was odd because there is plenty of inventory around town. Like everyone I got all three of Vision's citywide mail pieces. I think the NPA did one citywide mail out.
When it came to billboards, I became aware that is was third parties running them. That explained why Vision didn't do an outdoor buy, groups like the firefighter's union did it for them. And we saw material distributed by the BCTF in support of COPE & Vision's School Board slate, and so on. It reminded me of proxy campaigns in the U.S. elections. Participating in the debate on behalf of candidates is part of the democratic process to be sure, I just hope that Vision will be transparent in their accounting for that very expensive campaign support.
Did the NPA have third party endorsements?
Nothing like what I just described. In fact, I know of no third party ad buys done in support of Ladner and the NPA team. If I'm not aware of one then I apologize to that supporter for not acknowledging them today. We received some newspaper ad space as in-kind donations that we're declaring of course, but the space was used for NPA ads. All I know is when it came to advertising for the NPA, it was the NPA who did it.
That brings me to the point of what I just mentioned. Vision had a ton of third party support from labour unions. Will they account for this in their reporting? I can commit to you that every penny spent on an NPA campaign by the NPA or its donors will be accounted in the City records for March. Even any third party stuff. I've not checked with the Chief Electoral Officer for some weeks, so I'm not sure whether Vision's third party supporters have declared yet, but it's definitely something we should be looking for come March.
CityCaucus.com will be contacting both Vision Vancouver and COPE for their responses on this subject. Stay tuned.