City of North Vancouver Mayor Linda Buchanan nearly broke North Shore records for local campaign fundraising in her successful mayoral bid, despite new rules that ban corporate and union donations.
According to campaign finance disclosure documents released earlier this month, Buchanan raised $95,994 for her campaign, which was significantly more than she was able to spend. The record was set by Buchanan’s predecessor Darrell Mussatto who raised $99,034 in 2014.
In 2018, the NDP made changes to the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act to ban corporate and union donations and put a cap on individual donations at $1,200.
But an analysis by the North Shore News found about half of Buchanan’s donations came from individuals with ties to the development, real estate, construction, project management or commercial leasing industries.
Among the companies whose senior staff made the $1,000-plus donations: Millennium Development, Cascadia Green, Shato Holdings, Citimark, AMG Development, as well as five members of the De Cotiis family. Darwin Construction’s leadership did not contribute to Buchanan but the company president’s spouse gave $1,200.
Members of the family that owns Quay Property Management – which owns Lonsdale Quay and is currently developing the Shipyards in Lower Lonsdale – gave $2,400 in two individual donations. Also on the list of $1,200 donors: Anthony Beyrouti, founder of North Vancouver-based ticket seller Venue Kings, and his executive assistant Catherine Mabanta.
Mussatto also chipped in $500 towards his old council ally.
Buchanan was not available for an interview but sent an emailed statement.
“I received donations from dozens of people from all walks of life and in amounts from $10 to the legal maximum of $1,200. I’m proud that my vision for the city appealed to so many,” she wrote.
With all her election costs paid, Buchanan still had more than $40,000 left in the war chest. Under legislation, she is allowed to take back a $10,000 donation she made to herself in 2017 (before the new donation limits were put in place) but the rest of the surplus must be remitted to the City of North Vancouver. If she runs again, she may reclaim the money for her re-election bid. If she chooses not to run, she forfeits the money to the city.
The Vancouver and District Labour Council declared $1,809 in spending on pamphlets in the City of North Vancouver election, in which the group endorsed Buchanan as well as council candidates Angela Girard and Mack McCorkindale.
The rules do not require the labour council to disclose how much it spent on advertising prior to Sept. 22 or the value of the staff time of union employees who were seconded to support the campaigns of its endorsed candidates.
In North Vancouver, that mostly took the form of having volunteers hand out pamphlets to people passing through Lonsdale Quay, according labour council president Stephen von Sychowski, but it also included campaign organizing.
von Sychowski could not say how much time Labour Council staff contributed to Buchanan, Girard and McCorkindale’s campaigns or what the dollar value of that time was.
“It’s difficult because we didn’t really keep a close record of that. We had a couple of folks that were working in the office as campaign organizers. It was their role to recruit volunteers and send them out to do whatever they were out to do,” he said. “At the end of the day, if Elections BC said ‘You have to disclose everything,’ then we would have done that but there are forms for what you do during the election period and that’s all it includes.”
First runner-up in the mayoral race Guy Heywood raised $33,090, most of which came from members of his extended family. Rod Clark pulled in $39,726, including a number of $1,200-donations from members of the development industry: Raymond Vesely CEO of Apex Western Homes, Hossein Yazdi, real estate consultant with the Faith Wilson Group, Polygon’s Neil Chrystal, Ryan Beedie and Darwin’s Oliver Webbe. Kerry Morris’s $18,243 came mostly in the form donations of under $1,000.
On city council: Tony Valente declared $17,245 in donations and $24,917 in total outflows. Those who contributed $1,000 or more to his campaign include former HUB Cycling colleague Heather Drugge.
Tina Hu raised $11,202 for her run but only spent $9,435, according to her disclosure.
Jessica McIllroy found the cheapest path to victory in the city, winning a seat on council with $3,275 in donations. Mussatto was among her list of donors with a $250 contribution.
Incumbent Holly Back listed $14,748 in election expenses, which was financed partly by $1,200 donations from Millenium’s Zul Dahya and developer Terra Partners’ David Wolstenholme.
Outside the help from organized labour, Angela Girard’s $7,930 came mostly in donations of less than $500, although some family members contributed the $1,200 max.
Don Bell raised $11,270. Among his $1,200-donors: Alison Rota, Adam Blanchette and JP Stevenson.
District of North Vancouver
In the District of North Vancouver, Mayor Mike Little earned his seat with the help of $21,801 in campaign contributions. Little ran on a platform of slowing down development and no developers contributed to his campaign. Those who did donate the $1,200 maximum included: Phil and Janice Knapp, Geoff and Susan Bowering and Mike and Sandra Peters.
The pro-development Building Bridges Electors Society reported $71,551 in donations and $89,695 in spending for its slate of three council candidates Mathew Bond, Carleen Thomas and Sameer Parekh and mayoral contender Ash Amlani. On the 13-page list of donors, however, there are only a handful of major contributions from members of the development community. Among them: $1,200 donations from Darwin Construction’s Oliver Webbe, Cascadia Green Development’s Farzad Mazarei, Polygon’s Neil Chrystal and Yasser Yassin of Domus Homes.
Bond, who was an incumbent, was the only Building Bridges member to win a seat on council.
The majority of those elected to council eschewed developer donations. Lisa Muri tallied more votes than anyone in the race but only spent $3,108 of the $5,250 she raised in donations. Muri shared some expenses with current council allies Little, Megan Curren, Betty Forbes, as well as also-rans ZoAnn Morten and Barry Forward. Betty Forbes’ disclosure form shows $3,600 in donations, $2,400 of which she contributed herself, but $5,285 in outflows.
Some of the biggest donors to Jim Hanson’s $20,332-campaign came from legal colleagues. Curren made a point of not using election signs in her campaign and spent only $2,308, most of which came from her family. Jordan Back declared $14,681 in donations including $1,200 cheques from Millenium’s Dahya and Terra’s Wolstenholme, who also contributed to his mother Holly Back’s campaign in the city, and $1,000 from Cascadia Green Development’s Farzad Mazarei.
District of West Vancouver
In West Vancouver, the top two mayoral contenders finished just 20 votes apart and ran on almost identical campaign budgets.
Only a handful of Booth’s 61 donors were associated with the real estate sector including Prospero founder Robert Lee and his wife Lily, realtor Brock Smeaton and Zul Dahya of Millennium Development. Most donations though came from friends and family including fellow lawyers John Sibley, Carmen Theriault, William Lachman, UBC professor and tech entrepreneur Ian Verigin, and surveyor Bill Chapman.
Sager drew largely on friends and supporters in the business community. He also shared $4,308 in campaign advertising costs with Peter Lambur, Gabriele Loren, Sharon Thompson, Marcus Wong and Jim Finkbeiner.
On council, newcomer Sharon Thompson was the biggest campaign fundraiser with $14,050 declared. Among her $1,200 contributors was Maison Senior Living owner Donald Millikin, entrepreneur Yuri Fulmer and photographer Fiona Duncanson. Wong topped the polls in the council race with $12,450 in contributions, mostly from his family although Sager chipped in $500. Craig Cameron declared $10,393, most of it raised through individual donations of less than $500, although one $800 donation did come from Anthem’s Eric Carlson. Peter Lambur’s campaign ran on a $4,500 budget. His largest donor, other than himself, was Sager. Council veteran Bill Soprovich’s win was financed on a $4,289 budget. His disclosure forms specify his election signs are “22 years old.”
Nora Gambioli ran the most frugal winning campaign that totaled less than $2,000 in spending, most of it from her own pocket.
West Vancouver council watchers Scenery and Melinda Slater also registered as third-party sponsors spending $1,469 on pamphlets.
Staff from Elections BC will have to vet every disclosure document to ensure compliance with the law. Oftentimes, politicians’ forms require amendments.
Dermod Travis, executive director of the watchdog group Integrity BC, said even before the election, it was clear parts of the new law were untenable. Specifically, Travis flagged the ability for unions and businesses to contribute volunteers to campaigns with it being declared as an expense.
Travis said it’s also apparent from looking at the inconsistencies in the disclosure forms that many of the candidates did not fully understand the new rules and how spending should be accounted for.
“Those are things I think are going to be a nightmare to work out with the candidate,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s still an improvement over what we had before, and a big one.”
North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma said she is open to discussing future changes to campaign finance rules.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly referred to Mary-Ann Booth election donor Ryan Beechinor as chief operating officer of Grosvenor Americas. In fact, Beechinor retired from the company in 2015.