Former White Rock MLA Wilf Hurd (R)

Former White Rock MLA Wilf Hurd (R)

Former White Rock MLA at centre of donations controversy

Wilf Hurd was using Simon Fraser University money to make political contributions

There was no rule against using Simon Fraser University funds for political donations when Wilf Hurd, SFU’s director of government relations, gave SFU money to the BC Liberals.

But now, there will be a policy against it, following a report in the Vancouver Sun newspaper this week that the former Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA used university money to make $2,045 in donations to seven BC Liberal party fundraisers.

According to the report, the payments were made over a period of just over a month this year. They included, among other things, $1,000 for six tickets to an event staged by Liberal MLA and former cabinet minister Harry Bloy (Burnaby-Lougheed) and a $350 contribution to deputy Speaker Linda Reid (Richmond East).

The 61-year-old Hurd – who could not be reached for comment by press time Wednesday – attended the fundraisers and wrote out personal cheques to the BC Liberals, then filed an expense claim for the money with the university, which paid him back.

Don MacLachlan, SFU’s director of public affairs and media relations, said there was no written rule covering donations to political fundraisers, but the president of the university, Andrew Petter – a former New Democrat MLA (Saanich South) – has ordered a halt until a policy officially forbidding it is in place.

“It’s absolutely, definitively, put to a stop,” MacLachlan told Peace Arch News. “Expenditures such as this are not to happen.”

An internal investigation has been ordered by Petter, MacLachlan said.

MacLachlan said it appears the practice of expensing political donations had been carried on for a number of years at SFU, and may have involved contributions to the NDP as well as the Liberals.

MacLachlan was unable to say whether it was going on before Hurd was named SFU’s new director of government relations in March 2002, replacing the retiring Ken Mennell.

Chad Pederson, executive director of the BC Liberal party, announced the Hurd donations would be refunded to SFU.

Because the contributions were made using personal cheques, Pederson said the party had no way of knowing the university was actually paying.

While accepting donations from publicly funded organizations is not illegal, Pederson said it violates party rules.

“Our policies are quite clear,” Pederson told PAN.

“It’s inappropriate.”

Pederson added that if the SFU investigation discovers similar donations were made to the rival NDP, he hoped the other party would also refund the money.

The New Democrats did not immediately respond to a PAN request for comment.

When Hurd was named director of government relations at the university in 2002, he was quoted in the written announcement saying he planned to use his connections from his political past to promote the interests of SFU.

“I have a lot of contacts in both Ottawa and Victoria, so I’m hopeful I can use those contacts on behalf of the university” he said.

Hurd was first elected as MLA for Surrey-White Rock in 1991 and re-elected in 1996.

He served as opposition critic for forests and universities before stepping down to run in the 1997 federal election for the Liberals in South Surrey-White Rock-Langley, where he lost to Reform candidate Val Meredith.

Hurd’s resignation created a vacancy filled by Gordon Hogg in the Sept. 15, 1997 byelection.

While in office, Hurd made headlines for his partisan rhetoric in 1992, when he called then-NDP MLA David Schreck a “lapdog of the government” during a debate.

When Hurd refused to retract his remarks, he was expelled for the day by speaker Joan Sawicki.

He later said his words were poorly chosen.

Hurd was the first declared candidate in the Liberal leadership race to replace Gordon Wilson in 1993, but finished poorly with only 36 votes.

During the leadership campaign Hurd met with interim Social Credit leader Jack Weisgerber about forming a “coalition” of the right-of-centre parties to keep the NDP from power, but nothing came of it.

Hurd was also known for urging the annexation of South Surrey up to 40 Avenue by White Rock, but his proposal to study the idea was rejected by then-Surrey mayor Bob Bose.