Vision's big debt erased by big donations from big developers

Post by Mike Klassen in


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The lid has finally been taken off the private list of Vision donors

Exactly as we arrived at the 500-day mark since Vision Vancouver last divulged who is paying down their $240,000 campaign debt from the 2008 election, lo and behold the City's governing party releases its list of campaign donors on a hot summer day just prior to a long weekend. has been urging Vision to live up to its promise of openness and transparency, and its former calls for continuous disclosure. We're pleased to announce that we will officially stop our COUNT-UP CLOCK at 500 days.

countup-500days At first glance what do we see from Vision Vancouver's financial declaration? Without question, it's a huge amount of money that Vision have raised in the past 15 months. For an organization who is on the record as decrying the amount of money spent on civic campaigns, Vision Vancouver have taken campaign spending into stratospheric heights. Having raised $433,000 in the past 500 days, Vision Vancouver have single-handedly raised the bar for the cost of civic elections in BC.

Secondly, there is the matter of how Vision have flouted the rules of the Vancouver Charter, which clearly states that if you have raised money to pay down an outstanding election campaign debt, you must report it within 30 days. The Ministry of Rural and Community Development was written to consider the matter of Vision's non-compliance, and the Minister's response was to file any complaints directly with the Vancouver Police Department's Financial Crime Unit. That unit is headed up by Sergeant Mark Johnstone.

The most interesting details of Vision's disclosure statement are those that are left out. For example, we can see that Vision Vancouver paid over $14,000 as interest on the $240K debt. Who did they pay that interest to? Was it perhaps some of Vision's better known bankrollers such as Renewal Partners, or was it a bank such as VanCity? Would a bank even consider a quarter million dollar loan to a political party with virtually no assets? As we've asked before, who was holding Vision Vancouver's debt?

Another detail one notes when looking at the numbers is how much Vision Vancouver spends on operations. After paying down their debt they've spent another $180,000 in 15 months. This means with salaries and other costs the party is burning through almost $12,000 per month! Look at the bottom line on page 2, and you can see that Vision only has just over $10,000 left in the bank. That means unless they can get developers to write more cheques immediately, Vision will be in the red again by Labour Day!

The poor old NPA may not be raising any money, but according to their financial statement read at their recent AGM, they have almost $20,000 in the bank. That means even with all the money Vision have raised, the NPA still has more cash!

For the many developers who've donated to Vision a thorny problem arises now that we know who gave to Vision, when they gave to Vision and how much they donated. Since the NPA has Vision's donor list, and will most likely squeeze the same developers for an equivalent donation as election season heats up. So if you are a developer who gave a $10,000 donation, suddenly it becomes $20,000. Wow.

Most of us just want to know who gave to Vision, which these documents happily provide in spades – click to view the full financial disclosure.

Here are a few of the corporations and business entities who through their donations have been supporting backyard chickens, STIR, the ramming in of HEAT shelters, cuts to arts funding, cuts to park and community centre budgets, massive severance payments to senior public servants, a new bike lane on Dunsmuir without consultation and the new lane coming to Hornby Street, new bee hives atop City Hall, costly etiquette booklets, untendered PR contracts, free Olympic tickets for friends and insiders, tax breaks for developers, extravagent inaugural ceremonies, the unceremonious firing of award winning employees, costly social housing on the oceanfront, VIP access to city-built rental housing, a lack of openness and transparency, councillors jet setting on the taxpayers dime, an unfocused political agenda and an overall lack of consultation at City Hall:

  • Aquilini Development $10,000
  • Bastion Development Corp $7,500
  • Cannacord Capital Corporation $25,000
  • Canadian Metropolitan Properties $6,500
  • Concert Properties $8,000
  • Cressey Development $2,500
  • Delta Land Development $2,500
  • Earnscliffe BC $3,600
  • Emaar Properties $5,300
  • Femo Construction $3,000
  • Holborn Holdings $5,000
  • Imperial Parking Corp. $2,800
  • Intracorp Projects $10,000
  • Jim Green and Associates $400
  • Living Balance International Trading Ltd $10,000
  • Loblaw Properties $2,500
  • Omni Property MGT Services Ltd $2,500
  • Oxford Properties $800
  • Park Lane Homes $6,500
  • Pattison Outdoor $2,500
  • PCI Holdings $6,500
  • PCL Constructors $2,000
  • Polygon Homes $2000
  • Prospero Properties $5,000
  • Renewal Partners $2,500
  • Rising Tide Consultants $2,300
  • Rize Alliance Properties $2,500
  • Salient Development $1,500
  • Salt Spring Roasting Company $5,000
  • SFU Community Trust $500
  • Shato Holdings $2,500
  • Sinocom Systems $1,500
  • Southwest Contracting $2,000
  • Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours $2,500
  • Strategic Communications $10,000
  • Telus $2,000
  • Terasen Gas $2,100
  • Tom Lee Music $2,000
  • Value Group $2,500
  • Vanedge Capital Partners $1,500
  • Wall Financial Corp. $10,000
  • Wensley Architecture $2,750
  • Wesgroup Income Properties $9,000
  • Westcoast Liquor Company $1,400
  • Weststar Communications $350
  • Westwood Ridge Development Corp $5000
  • Yaletown Park Condominium Properties $5,000
  • Yellow Cab $2,900

The unions also did their part:

  • ACFC West, Local 2020 CEP $1,000
  • BC + YT Building Trades and Construction $3,400
  • BC Government and Service Employees' Union $1,900
  • CLC Pacific Region $1,650
  • COPE 378 $1,450
  • CUPE 1004 $3,000 (note other CUPE locals also contributed)
  • United Steelworkers - P.E.C. 1% Fund District 3 $1,000
  • VESTA (Teacher's Union) $1,020
  • Vancouver Police Union $3,250
  • Vancouver Secondary Teachers Assoc $1,650

Finally, some notable individual donations:

  • NDP MLA Bruce Ralston $150
  • Carol Newell $825
  • David Eby $100
  • Doug McArthur $150
  • Douglas Beaton $175
  • Helen Spiegelman $500
  • Ian Waddell (former NDP MLA) $200
  • Margaret Birrell (former NDP MLA) $450
  • John Nightingale (Vancouver Aquarium bigwig) $150
  • Paul Faoro (head of CUPE at City Hall) $180
  • Robin Rennie $160
  • Am Johal, housing protester $160

UPDATE: The NPA have sent out a media release raising concerns about the "astonishing" increase in political spending. Here is the release:

NPA Calls Vision Vancouver Fundraising astonishing

Vancouver—Vision Vancouver today released statements showing they have raised over $433,000 since March 1, 2009.

Vancouver Non-Partisan Association (NPA) President Michael Davis says Vision Vancouver is taking municipal campaign fundraising to astonishing levels.

“In front of reporters, Mayor Robertson says campaign finance is out of control and should be reigned in through legislation,” says Davis. “Behind the scenes, the party he leads is taking close to half a million from developers and trade unions in a non-election year. What do you suppose these donors expect in return?”

The documents filed by Vision Vancouver show they took $433,560.83 in contributions since March 1, 2009. The party used $241,666.70 to pay off their 2008 campaign debt and spent $181,522.35.

“Residents should be very concerned about what how much this Mayor is prepared to pay to stay in power,” adds Davis, “and who is paying the bills.”

- post by Mike


Johnny boy over at vision's blog has a headline which states "show me the money" regarding this story. Interesting choice of words my young friend.

Me wonders if any of that money raised by Vision actually went to him as consultant fees? Does he care to weigh in and clear the air? Hey Johnny boy, is that really was you say to the mayor when you see him? "show me the money"

Interesting how Olympic village developer Millennium didn't give anything to Vision. I recall they had tried to give donations during the civic election but were rebuffed.

If I were the NPA, I would be putting the screws to every developer/business on that list asking for an equal donation. What's fair is fair. Who knows in this whacky world of politics, the NPA could pull an upset in the next election.

@Jes. The absence of Millennium on the Vision list is odd given that they were reported to be at their last fundraiser in June. See Frances Bula's report here:

Vision put out these releases for maximum political effect - as they did in 2007. Note how small the donations are from the Hollyhock gang. Just enough to show they're still around, but hardly big bucks. However, there are a number of cheques showing up here from the Flack Block offices where Renewal/Tides has their home.

Vision did EXACTLY the same thing in 2007, claiming they "went beyond" the requirements of the Vancouver Charter. Technically, they do not have to reveal donations that do not relate to their 2008 campaign. However, they did not release the information about donations within 30 days per the requirements of the Vancouver Charter. Vision are hoping no one will call them on it, and as far as I know no one has ever been charged with violations of the Charter on this. But there are grounds for a police investigation, if someone were to file a complaint. You'd think that the City Clerk's office would, but I believe they would rather that a member of the public do this.

The fact that Vision have NOT put Millennium on their release suggests that they are withholding names of donors that might be perceived as "politically" sensitive.

@ Patrick

What vision blog?

Isn't this how politics works now? We watch money get pissed away in larger sums every day?

I see Stanley Park Horse Drawn Tours on the list.

Didn't they get axed by the Parks Board recently?

This is shocking to see how much money the big developers are pumping into this civic party. These businesses couldn't get away with making these kinds of donations at the federal level. I certainly hope none of this money is influencing decisions being made at council.

@ Max. Vision not only axed the Stanley Park Horse
Drawn Tours but, in doing so they put the kyboche on an experienced, motivated operator who wanted to put a proposal in to save the Children's Farmyard. How multi-dimensionally short sighted.

I was on the Park Board when we approved to 1st operating contract with the SPHDT's owner. He's a free spirit & didn't have the confidence of the staff @ the time. Apparently he still doesn't. In the 1970s we were able to bridge the gaps between the SPHDT & staff & it has worked until now. But, to lose 2 venerable, worthwhile services shows not only shortsightedness but, a lack of political leadership & will as well.

Off topic but...

I am paging through a back issue of BC Business - May 2009; there is an interview with Penny Ballem.

One of the questions put to her is: Do you have an appetite for administration?

A: Well, not "administration" - it's such a terrible word. It's not administration you like; it's the chance to lead and move important agendas. It's in my blood: my father was a municipal politician, a mayor, and my uncle was a federal cabinet minister for many years. To me they are very interesting jobs. When I was away from it, I missed it.

Now according to Wiki: Ballem grew up in the Westmount area of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She was one of five children of a Montreal engineer and his wife.[4]

So, which is the truth - dad is an engineer, or a mayor?

She goes on further to state: 'You know, one of the things the public doesn't understand - because they have this ugly notion of bureaucrats - is that government is filled with committed, bright, very experience people.'

Still chuckling over that one!

Don't chuckle Max. Who are the dumb ones? The bureaucrats who have been able to obtain high paying jobs with relative job security and pensions that the private sector could only dream of. Or the taxpayers who pay them.


Bill is right.... I wonder how many resumes have been exaggerated on Council, School board and Park Board.

We give our pet sitters resume a more rigorous scrutiny, than we do our politicians.

I'm wondering why the SFU Community Trust Endowment Fund is donating to a partisan political party? I'm not sure that's appropriate or ethical.

Sorry George and Bill, what I am chuckling over was her last statement about 'government being filled with committed, bright, experienced people'.

Now, knowing what we do about our current Mayor and council it leaves one wondering - where are these people, being as Vision can't organize a 'lemonade stand' or in Vancouver's case a 'food cart' stand without things going sideways.

Sean, it must be ethical because Vision Vancouver cashed the cheque and reported it. I'm sure they wouldn't do anything that's unethical. Would they?

This is a great post. I will have an analysis on my blog Monday afternoon.

Stay tuned. There's much more to this than meets the eye.

Yeah, Sean has a good point. The terms of reference for the SFU Community Trust Endowment Fund (CTEF) do not permit political donations of any kind. What gives?!

@ MK.
"the Vancouver Charter, which clearly states that if you have raised money to pay down an outstanding election campaign debt, you must report it within 30 days."

The short form math tells a story:

O/s 'o8 campaign debt, $240,000;
Amt. raised as of 30 June, '10, $433,000;
Difference = $193,000.
Less on-going monthly expenses of $11,000 for 16 mos. [say March, 09 to Jun, 10]
= $176,000 + $14,000 interest
= MINUS ($3,000).


From the looks of their list, they've tapped out the business / development communities & I know from feedback, they're reconsidering their options. So, that leaves the unions + individual donors. Vision is going to be in further financial dodo from now until the 2011 election. Will Hollyhock come to the rescue?

Speaking of Hollyhock. They & related foundations are not on the list. Can we be sure they haven't put some money into the coffers? With the history, it seems likely. Given some of the other missing bits others have pointed out, is this the whole story?

Opps, got sidetracked.

A big unanswered ? in this post is @ what date did Vision pay off their unknown, mystery bankroller? They are required by law to make this publicly available within 30 days of it happening. WE STILL DON'T HAVE THAT ANSWER. An audited accounting of their records from a reputable CA firm will do.

Given the inys & outys of the above math, the answer cannot be speculated upon.

I think SFU trust should ask Vision to return this money pronto. Otherwise this story could mushroom into something much bigger that the five hundred bucks. Which braniac at vision decided to cash this cheque?

Good question Bill. Who got all that interest money that Vision paid out? Was it a bank? A union? A social change network? Just who lent them the money to fund their 2008 political campaign? Voters deserve to know this kind of crucial information. Will Vision reveal it?

Finally, some notable individual donations: should have included Patti Bacchus in this list: $1,249.00.

Check out!

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