Mary Jane Stenberg

Mary Jane Stenberg

Party donations not limited to just SFU

Simon Fraser University’s Wilf Hurd is not the only university external relations director to attend a partisan political fundraiser.

Simon Fraser University’s Wilf Hurd is not the only university external relations director to attend a partisan political fundraiser, Peace Arch News has learned.

Kwantlen Polytechnic University sent representatives to BC Liberal party fundraisers but may not have violated party guidelines that forbid contributions from publicly funded institutions.

Mary Jane Stenberg, the university’s executive director of external affairs in the office of the president, has on more than one occasion attended an annual fundraiser organized by Rich Coleman, the veteran Fort Langley-Aldergrove Liberal MLA, Minister of Energy and Mines and Minister Responsible for Housing.

Other Kwantlen representatives have also attended the same event, PAN has determined.

Coleman, who was first elected in 1996, usually holds the gala event in November. Participants purchase tickets, either for individual seats or full tables, usually for around $100 per person.

At press time, neither Stenberg, Coleman or the university had responded to PAN requests for clarification about Kwantlen’s involvement, specifically whether the university paid for tickets and tables, directly or indirectly.

While the practice is not illegal, the BC Liberal party has a policy against accepting contributions from taxpayer-funded institutions like universities.

Liberal party executive director Chad Pederson told PAN that a check of party records shows the donation was made by Stenberg as  an individual. If the donation was later covered by Kwantlen as an expense, the party would refund the amount, he said.

The donations issue arose last week when the Vancouver Sun reported April 4 that SFU’s director of government relations, Hurd, a former Surrey-White Rock Liberal MLA, used university money to make $2,045 in donations to seven BC Liberal party fundraisers.

SFU then announced a ban on the practice.

The 61-year-old Hurd refused to be interviewed when contacted by PAN at his Langley home Monday.

“I understand you’re just doing your job, but I have no comment,” Hurd said before hanging up.

According to the Vancouver newspaper, Hurd 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.

At the time of the donations, there was no policy at SFU against using university funds to buy tickets at political fundraisers.

Don MacLachlan, SFU’s director of public affairs and media relations, 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.

An internal investigation has been ordered by SFU president Andrew Petter.

Comparatively, the University of B.C. banned the use of university funds for political contributions in 2007, when it adopted a strategic plan that effectively prohibits the practice.

“We made it quite explicit that we will be non-partisan,” said Adriaan de Jager, UBC executive director of government relations.

“My budget has never been used for that purpose.”

Stenberg, who has a similar position to Hurd’s at Kwantlen, is also the current president of the Surrey Board of Trade.

Last year, she travelled to China and India on the B.C. Premier’s Trade Mission to Asia.

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

He was opposition critic for forests and universities, then stepped down in 1997 to run federally 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 from the legislature by speaker Joan Sawicki.

Hurd was the first declared candidate in the Liberal leadership race to replace Gordon Wilson in 1993, but finished near the bottom of the pack 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.