Port Moody councilor calls on politicians to declare all campaign donations from individuals linked to developers

“You want people to be aware, for the audience to know that there’s this connection and they have to be rigorous to focus on the audience.” —Hunter Madsen

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A Port Moody councilor is calling for a new code of conduct that would require politicians to publicly declare the amount and source of any campaign contributions received from individuals associated with a developer before voting on project proposals, and would also encourage them to recuse themselves from these decisions.

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“You want people to be aware, for the public to know that there is this connection and they have to be rigorous in focusing on the public,” said Hunter Madsen, who is introducing a motion on Tuesday.

It’s a psychological check against being beholden, which can be complex to follow, but carries risks, Madsen said.

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During his tenure on the board, Madsen found that different politicians were asking developers more and less questions. Some try to get better or different terms for the community while others can push an application through faster.

“People are not particularly good at understanding whether they are influenced or not. They tend to think they’re savvier than they actually are,” Madsen said.

A provincial ban on direct donations to municipal campaigns by businesses and unions has been in effect since November 2017 after Postmedia reviewed the top 50 donors to the provincial government, finding that 21 property developers were on the list.

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However, Madsen found that since then real estate company owners and their directors, employees and family members have legally turned to large donations as individuals to as many council candidates in as many different municipalities in British Columbia as they wish.

For example, Langley-based Marcon Developments, which is owned and operated by members of the Paolella family, was listed in the 2014 municipal elections as having distributed more than $33,000 among 17 candidates running primarily in Langley and Coquitlam. , two cities where he had major real estate projects in the works. In 2018, $18,000 in donations designated as coming from six members of the Paolella family were legally given to candidates for mayor and council in Langley, Coquitlam and Port Moody, where the company had submitted project proposals, according to Madsen’s research.

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He also found that during the 2014 and 2018 municipal elections, Beedie, of Burnaby, donated more than $169,000 to a wide range of candidates in 10 Lower Mainland municipalities. In 2014, almost all of these donations were “corporate” in nature and made by different entities of the company. After the ban, three members of the Beedie family legally used their right to make individual donations, transferring up to 37 of those contributions totaling more than $42,000 to candidates and organizations in different cities across British Columbia. British.

Elections BC requires that for any donation valued at $100 or more, the identity and amount of the donor be published in an online system, but filings only include individual names and not related companies. Madsen was able to identify some high-level and corporate executives through Google searches.

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He also found that in Port Moody, incumbent politicians with the longest terms on council appeared to have their 2018 candidacies supported primarily by donations from people connected to real estate and the construction industry. While incumbents got an average of 65% of their funding from people connected to development interests, new applicants got an average of only 6%.

“My goal is not to denigrate these developers. They have a good reputation. They are also politically engaged and do excellent philanthropic work. I really don’t take anything away from them for giving money to a lot of candidates in areas that might be of interest to them. It all depends on the judgment and discretion of city officials and whether they take that money or say “no.”

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There’s no implication of wrongdoing, but it’s a reasonable question to ask whether it’s ethical and prudent for elected officials to fund their campaigns in a way that leads to divided loyalties, Madsen said. . Finding ways to neutralize this impact could lead to exploring public funding of candidates’ election campaigns.

Along with his motion to Port Moody City Council, Madsen also plans to take the idea of ​​the code of conduct to other BC cities through the Union of British Columbia Municipalities. Beyond reporting donations and challenging decisions, Madsen suggests politicians could pledge to no longer accept developer-related donations.

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