The greatest trick the Burnaby Citizens Association braintrust ever pulled was somehow convincing people they were a “left-wing” political party.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone write on social media – or heard someone say – that the BCA are a bunch of “lefties.”
They are not. Not even close. Don’t make me laugh.
Now, depending on your political persuasion, that might be a good or a bad thing.
I don’t personally care which part of the political spectrum the BCA is on – I don’t lean any which way but loose - but I do care when people mischaracterize what part of that spectrum the BCA is on.
The number of people who believe the BCA are “left wing” is, of course, dwindling. Ignoring the homeless and the demovicted over the years will do that to a reputation.
The “left-wing” rep comes from the BCA’s seemingly close connection to the BC NDP. Former BCA councillor Anne Kang is now a BC NDP MLA. Ex-Mayor Derek Corrigan’s wife Kathy was a Burnaby-area MLA. The BCA has also been consistently endorsed by the left-leaning New Westminster and District Labour Council (although it did a sort of flip-flop before finally endorsing the BCA councillors, but not Corrigan).
The BCA has also been vehement in opposing the Trans Mountain pipeline.
But opposing a pipeline and being linked to the BC NDP does not automatically qualify you for membership in the “lefty” political club.
Actions speak louder than political connections.
The BCA’s lack of action on the housing affordability crisis far outweighs their pipeline opposition.
That point was driven home on Tuesday when Elections BC released all the campaign disclosure statement data from the 2018 civic election.
A walk through the piles of money contributed to the BCA in the past few years (the total “inflows” listed on the form was a ginormous $632,655) reveals that housing developers shovelled great gobs of money at the party that has ruled Burnaby politics for decades.
Most of these contributions came in amounts of $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000, with some developers making more than one large donation (some in the tens of thousands) over the years. The contributions listed start in 2015.
Here are some of the developers and housing-connected companies on the list:
- Beedie Group
- Blue Sky Properties
- Cressey (Kingsway) Development
- McAllistar Developments
- Shape Property Management
- Thind Properties
- Appia Developments
- Beta View Homes
- Concord Pacific
- Intergulf Development
- Parc Communities Management
- Boffo Developments
- Ledingham McAllistar
- Oxford Properties Group
- Aquilini Village Holdings
- Kebet Holdings (Ryan Beedie)
- Shato Holdings
Yes, it’s a long list and a lot of money.
The largest one-time donation I saw was for $30,000 in 2017 from Aoyuan Management Services, which is working on building multiple towers near Brentwood Town Centre.
There are quite a few smaller contributions from individuals and unions on the list (for instance, $1,200 from CUPE Local 23, Burnaby civic employees in 2016) and more than $7,500 in contributions from Bonny’s Taxi. (And on one ironic note, Burnaby Firefighters 323 – yes, the same union that backed Mike Hurley for mayor and despised Corrigan – donated 1,125 in 2017 to the BCA.) Some of the money was raised through events, like a golf tournament. Gateway Casinos was also a big donor.
But developers dominate the list, backing up the Brinks truck for the BCA repeatedly over the years.
During the 2018 civic election campaign, Corrigan and the BCA repeatedly inferred that Hurley was a puppet for the firefighters union.
The logic was that because Hurley was backed by the firefighters union, then he was beholden to them if elected (it should be noted that Hurley has recused himself from contract negotiations with the firefighters).
But according to Corrigan and the BCA’s own logic, then they are beholden to all of the developers who made so many large donations to them.
Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.
What’s frightening about how much money the BCA managed to amass in its warchest over the years is it could have been much, much more.
Things changed after Oct. 31, 2017 when the BC NDP changed the rules, banning union and corporate donations.
The BCA disclosure statements show a lot of $1,200 contributions from individuals and the party did manage to raise about $79,000 after the new rules kicked in, but imagine that total with a bunch of $5,000 and $10,000 contributions. They definitely had enough to fund a half-a-million-dollar campaign throughout 2018, but things will likely have to be scaled back in four years.
You can view the BCA's disclosure statement here.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44