B.C. Liberals retain big lead in donations

The B.C. Liberal Party has slipped in public opinion polls, but it's still far out in front in the race for donations.

Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet are sworn in

Premier Christy Clark and her cabinet are sworn in

VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberal Party has slipped in public opinion polls, but it’s still far out in front in the race for donations.

Financial statements released Wednesday by Elections BC show the B.C. Liberals collected more than $8.9 million in political contributions in 2011. About $5 million of that came from corporations, with most of the rest from individuals.

The B.C. NDP collected $4.4 million in political contributions last year. The vast majority was individual donations, with $831,000 from unions and about $230,000 from corporations and businesses.

Large individual donations to the B.C. Liberals included $100,000 each from Richard Ilich and John S. Major, $50,000 from Teck Corp. chairman Norm Keevil, and $50,000 from Gwyn Morgan, the former EnCana CEO who now serves as an advisor to Premier Christy Clark.

Companies controlled by Vancouver Canucks owner Francesco Aquilini donated a total of $128,000. Other corporate donors included Cactus Restaurants Ltd., which donated $42,500, and Earl’s with more than $24,000, despite the B.C. Liberal government’s imposition of the harmonized sales tax and increases to the provincial minimum wage.

Railways, forest and pharmaceutical firms also lined up to donate to the B.C. Liberals, a trend that has seen the party collect roughly double the amount of the NDP over the past decade. Natural gas producer EnCana gave the B.C. Liberals $146,200, and the largest single donation of $210,000 came from Vancouver-based mining company Goldcorp Inc.

The B.C. Liberals finished 2011 with more than $1.5 million in the bank, although loans and other liabilities leave it with a surplus of just under $400,000 with an election just over a year away. The NDP finished 2011 with a deficit of nearly $100,000, in a year when both major parties had leadership conventions as well as regular costs of operation.

The B.C. Conservative Party is going into two April 19 by-elections with $124,780 in the bank. Donations from individuals in 2011 total nearly $70,000, and account for most of the party’s 2011 income. Their biggest donors are Ian G. Pyper and Margaret Pyper, who donated $5,000 each to the B.C. Conservatives last year.

The party also got $5,000 each from Cobra Venture Corp. and Perpetuity Investments Ltd., along with a third corporate donation of $1,000.

Both the NDP and B.C. Conservatives suppor an end to corporate and union donations to provincial political parties, a rule that already applies to federal parties.