A major Kamloops employer was the top corporate donor in B.C. during last May’s provincial election, handing over more than $280,000.
Teck Resources and its Highland Valley Copper mining subsidiary gave more than $222,000 to the Liberals as well as $62,000 to the NDP.
Six-figure donations from Teck and other corporations have led a B.C. political watchdog to suggest unethical motivation.
“They’re not doing it because they’re good corporate citizens,” said Dermod Travis, IntegrityBC executive director. “It’s their hope that should the party they’re signing six-figure cheques to form the government, that they will have a friendly ear in the corridors of the legislature in Victoria.”
Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake said contributions merely show the support of a party’s ideology. In the case of the Liberals, that’s free enterprise.
“Donors reflect the political philosophy of the party they support,” he said.
Travis countered by saying it seems the oil and gas industry suddenly became socialist in the past election since 17 industry companies donated to the NDP.
“Free enterprise one day, socialist the next,” said Travis. “It depends the way the polls are going.”
IntegrityBC is calling for a ban on donations from corporations as well as unions.
Unions also played an influential role in the election as the NDP’s top three donors and source of the three largest single sums of the election.
The B.C. Government & Services Employees Union donated $428,684, the Canadian Union of Public Employees gave $309,812 and the Hospitals Employees Union provided $285,285.
Travis isn’t the only one concerned about donations.
Tom Friedman, the former NDP candidate for Kamloops-South Thompson, is opposed to out-of-province donations even though his party accepted funds from Encana Corporation, based in Alberta, and Spectra Energy, of Texas.
B.C. is the only province in Canada without restrictions on corporate donations or limits on where funds come from during elections.
“People feel that those donations coming from out of province or out of country are attempting to sway British Columbia voters and that’s obviously a concern to all of us,” he said.
Friedman added that his party accepted such donations merely to level out the playing field.
Lake was unfazed by suggestions that large contributions from corporations or unions could influence an election.
He said he had the same response to concerns that foreign money was backing environmental groups in attempts to block development.
“I think British Columbians control their own destiny,” he said.
“I really don’t think these corporations or unions really influence as much as people fear. I think the electorate is pretty smart and expresses their will very well.”