Wild West of Political Cash


Former BC Premier Christie Clark ran a political fundraising regime that was described as “the wild west of Canadian political cash” in a New York Times headline. While there may not have been any illegality about financial contributions under this regime its appropriateness and suitability in a genuine and people oriented democracy is clearly in doubt. Also, its implications for corporate influence over the economic affairs of the province are worth reviewing as the Liberals, now in opposition, have joined the new NDP/Green government in the push for change. There are no limits on political donations in B.C. and it is reported in the Globe and Mail that their review of public records found dozens of paid lobbyists actually make large contributions in their own names and not, more transparently, in the names of those of the interests they represent.

One such donor is Byng Giraud, the top in-house lobbyist for and Vice President of Woodfibre LNG. He has apparently given the B.C. Liberals $47,149 in 20 payments, under his own name. Another Woodfibre LNG manager, Marian Ngo, seems to have given the party $28,000, in 14 donations. The Globe and Mail cites Mr Giraud as saying that donating under one’s own name “is common practice,” as the fund-raiser ticket-purchase forms on the Liberal party’s website often had no field to put the company name. The point here is that whatever the ethical complexion of the corporate investor, it the up to our provincial government to set the tone for doing business here, and in no way should provincial economic decision making be as tinged by the colour of money as it appears to have been of late. The new NDP/Green government of British Columbia must deliver on their campaign promises about changing the law in this regard.

Image: https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/02/15/Please-Advise-Alberta-Beefs/




sukanto_tanoto_crop2.jpgAccording to Gordon Hoekstra of the Vancouver Sun, following the PETRONAS decision not to build their LNG terminal on LELU Island there are now only three such projects that might still complete –

LNG Canada in Kitimat, an up-to-$40 billion project led by Shell is undergoing a review and cost cutting exercise and the final investment decision on constructing a facility is yet to be made.

• Kitimat LNG, a $3.5-billion joint venture between Chevron and Australian company Woodside, is re-evaluating its project to drive down costs and is also yet to make its final investment decision..

• Woodfibre LNG is a $1.6-billion project near Squamish, owned by Singapore-based Royal Golden Eagle Pte. Ltd.  which is in turn owned by Indonesian billionaire Sukanto Tanoto, has already received a 40 year permit and has made the decision to build their plant but cost cutting exercises are ongoing and construction start dat has not been announced.

These are the remaining possibilities of the 19 LNG export terminals that Christie Clark’s Liberal government were hoping to realize as part of their push for an LNG industry in BC. As British Columbia moves forward under the new NDP/Green coalition government, the relatively small, Woodfibre LNG project is exemplifies the deep concerns about possible environmental scenarios that might emerge as the Provincial and Federal Governments build relationships and make commitments to foreign corporate players.  In a National Observer article published before the project received its approval, Mychaylo Prystupa questioned Sukanto Tanoto’s environmental and business record. In connection with this allegedly poor record, Mychaylo cited the Mayor of Squamish, Patricia Heintzman as saying, “It’s difficult for the community to have trust that this person will not cut corners or be disrespectful to our environment.”

Before scrutinizing our foreign investors credentials, British Columbians would do well to review BC Liberals lobbying and fundraising regime which raised almost $8 million coming from corporations in 2016 alone and has earned our province the reputation of being the Wild West of political finance. The question, in what might be called the post-Liberal/LNG era, is not so much WHO gave HOW MUCH to secure WHAT project, but how quickly the new NDP/Green government will act on the promise to reorder this money/politics infrastructure and move on to a more electorate oriented political economy.

Image: http://www.nationalobserver.com/2015/06/03/news/bc-under-pressure-cut-lng-deal-notorious-asian-billionaire