With Respect to Campaign Contributions
by NVD Councillor Jim Hanson, June 2019
THAT staff is directed to prepare a policy that will require members of Council to declare before voting on any development proposal, campaign contributions knowingly received from the applicant, or from individuals associated with the applicant, and that members of Council are encouraged to recuse themselves where such a declaration is made;
AND THAT an internet link to the campaign financing disclosure statements of all members of Council be placed in a prominent location on the District’s web page;
AND THAT for the purposes of this policy, persons “associated” with a development company include a company’s owners, directors, officers, employees, and family members of such persons;
AND THAT a procedure be established for the Mayor or Acting Mayor to request the full disclosure of such campaign finance donations prior to discussion and voting.
REASON FOR REPORT:
The reason for this report is to provide Council with an opportunity to establish policy to foster greater transparency and accountability for Councillors debating and voting on development applications.
A review of publicly available information regarding 2018 financial campaign contributions to candidates and elected Councillors, combined with background research, reveals that certain candidates and elected Councillors have accepted campaign monies from individuals related to development companies operating on the North Shore.
For example, a candidate received funds from the spouse of the President of a major North Shore development company, another candidate received funds from a partner of a development company, while another received funds from the president and founder of a development company.
Provincial legislation prohibits candidates from receiving funds directly from corporations and unions, but the legislation does not deal with the issue of corporations seeking to make political donations indirectly through persons associated with the company.
By way of further example, one political entity in the 2018 North Vancouver District Council election, Building Bridges, received numerous donations from persons associated with corporations engaged in real estate development, including donations from persons associated with:
- Cascadia Green Development;
- Mosaic Homes;
- Alyza Homes;
- Baron Projects Real Estate Development;
- Polygon Homes;
- Darwin Construction;
- Domus Homes; and,
- JFR Properties.
This can only be a partial list given the practical challenges in researching who is, and who is not, a person associated with a development company. Certain of these development companies donated to Building Bridges through multiple individuals.
In addition, Building Bridges received campaign finance from others associated with real estate development through their roles as realtors and other professionals engaged in services linked to the real estate industry.
Transparency and accountability are hallmarks of an effective democracy. Without these, the electorate are left to speculate on the motivation behind certain decisions. Decisions on development applications have a profound influence, for better or for worse, on the way of life of voters in North Vancouver District.
Increased population density influences not only housing realities, and the potential for development companies to earn profits, but also the efficiency of our transportation networks, access to needed medical and other services, access to parks and recreational amenities, retention of green space, air quality, noise levels, and more generally the overall experience of living in North Vancouver District.
By approving development applications, we literally change our community. As locally elected representatives of our community, we must be open and honest about our motivations.
Whatever the truth may be, many voters in the District suspect a linkage between the voting records of certain Councillors and their receipt of campaign finance from development companies.
Given the current regulations around campaign financing contributions, speculation by residents often, rightly or wrongly, leads to the questioning of the motivation of Councillors who support development.
Since campaign financing disclosure statements are public, we can address matters of transparency and accountability by requiring members of Council to declare when they have knowingly received contributions from persons associated with the applicant at the time when development applications come before Council.
I first saw North Vancouver Councillor Jim Hanson’s proposal at a Facebook site, Citizens For Responsible Development Deep Cove To Lynnmour And Beyond. It is republished, with the Councillor’s permission, because financial contributors influence political decisions in every jurisdiction.
The province of British Columbia passed legislation in 2017 that altered political financing but left gaps allowing actions contrary to the spirit of amended election finance laws. If adopted, local policy might help fill those voids.
One comment on the Facebook site was from Peter Teevan, a knowledgeable North Vancouver resident with a keen interest in local policies. I think it explains in a few words why Mr. Hanson’s proposal is worthwhile:
This is an important issue and I am so glad Jim Hanson has brought it forward!
For those of you who don’t follow every turn and twist – the “problem” has already been realized – on May 27th… Watch the video yourselves…[starting 12:25]
Two Councillors who accepted donations from principals of development firms, debated, argued for, and voted in favour of the NSID development proposal. They were asked to do the appropriate thing and recuse themselves. They did the opposite.
From Councillor Jim Hanson’s Facebook page, plus a comment from one follower: