Are Vision Vancouver supporters digging deep to pay off the party's debt?
It's summer in the city, and Vancouver's ruling party are pulling out all the stops doing voter outreach in a series of social events. As someone with experience in party politics, if there is anything certain about throwing a bash it's that there is always a financial cost.
Vision Vancouver's ongoing expenses are unknown to the public, but with staff, social events and ongoing online communications, we know it ain't zero.
The left-leaning party who now manage the financial affairs of the City of Vancouver have had a difficult time living within their means over the past few elections. In 2005, the nascent civic party ran up a debt of $200,000 only running a partial slate of councillors and one mayoral candidate.
In the summer of 2007, with Geoff Meggs as Financial Agent, Vision Vancouver declared they had paid off their 2005 debt. Vision used the supplementary disclosure as a political whip to attack the NPA. In the process they made a big fuss about creating a continuous disclosure policy on campaign financing which they now have conveniently scrapped.
Vision Vancouver may have raised $300K and paid the bills of the '05 election, but according to Meggs declaration, the party wasn't "debt-free." In fact, during the 24 months it took to raise the extra funds their costs appear to have exceeded their ability to raise funds, showing Vision with a balance of minus $54,410.14 in November 2007.
In the covering letter to Vancouver's Deputy Election Officer Paul Hancock, Geoff Meggs made the following signed statement:
This report is triggered by our conclusion that the 2005 campaign deficit has been retired and contributions from this point forward will fund the 2008 campaign.
Being $50,000 in the hole is a tough place for anyone to get rolling, but for Meggs it was the starting point for Campaign '08.
Fast forward to March 2009, and Vision Vancouver finally declare their campaign expenses for the fall election. And the disclosure reveals they're carrying a whopping $241,666.61 worth of campaign debt.
It's no wonder Mayor Robertson is making extra time in his schedule for meetings with developers. It takes a lot of cash to keep a party like Vision Vancouver on top.
But there is one sticky question that keeps getting raised by City Hall watchers we speak to. Who's holding that debt? According to the Vancouver Charter, if a civic party raises even one dollar toward paying off a campaign debt, they must file a supplementary disclosure to the City Clerk's office. None has been filed to date.
Is there a local financial institution would take the risk on a quarter million dollar debt for a civic party that already once ran away from its obligations? Readers may recall that Vision Vancouver were formed after splitting away from COPE, who were at the time saddled with their own campaign debt. If it's not a bank holding Vision's $240K campaign debt, then who is and what's the interest charge?
So when you go to the next Vision Vancouver all-you-can-eat hot dogs and chips summer BBQ, you might ask yourself who the heck is paying for all those condiments?