District of North Van politician wants council members to disclose donations by people associated with developers

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      After winning the 2017 provincial election, the B.C. NDP government banned corporate and union political donations at the local level during election periods.

      But District of North Vancouver councillor Jim Hanson feels that more can be done to diminish the influence of big money in politics.

      So he's prepared a report recommending that council direct staff prepare a policy focusing on contributions from those linked to the development industry.

      Hanson, a personal injury lawyer, wants fellow members of council to be required to disclose if they've received donations from people "associated" with development companies.

      He defines these associates as "a company's owners, directors, officers, employees, and family members of such persons".

      And he wants staff to recommend a procedure to make this information publicly available in advance of the mayor and councillors voting on any development applications. 

      In addition, Hanson is asking council to direct staff place a link to campaign-financing disclosure statements "in a prominent location" on the District of North Vancouver website.

      His recommendations will go before the District of North Vancouver council tonight (June 17).

      "Transparency and accountability are hallmarks of an effective democracy," Hanson wrote in his report. "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," he continued. "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."

      In the report, Hanson cited the example of the Building Bridges slate that fielded candidates in the 2018 election. Only one of them, Mathew Bond, was elected to council.

      Hanson noted that Building Bridges received "numerous donations from persons associated with corporations engaged in real estate 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," he wrote.

      Vancouver council has not imposed rules requiring a different level of disclosure for people associated with certain industries.
      Stephen Hui

      Vancouver disclosures don't always spread sunshine

      Prior to the 2018 Vancouver election, one of the major parties, the NPA, only disclosed the first initial of its contributors.

      At the time, the Straight highlighted this in the following paragraphs in a commentary:

      "We can only guess that the $1,200 from 'P Brown' came from Fraser Institute chair and long-time NPA donor Peter Brown.

      "It's likely that $1,200 from 'E Chutter' refers to former NPA director and honorary Russian consul in Vancouver Erin Chutter.

      "There are seven donors from people with the surname 'Armstrong'. They include a $1,200 contribution from a 'P Armstrong'.

      "We're assuming that's railway-company owner Peter Armstrong, who encouraged Sim to enter the NPA mayoral-nomination race.

      "Sim also has the support of billionaire lululemon founder Chip Wilson, but it's impossible to prove if he's thrown any money into the NPA pot.

      "That's because 'Wilson' is a very common name in Vancouver.

      "There's $1,200 from 'C Wilson'. Another $1,200 contribution came from 'S Wilson', and Chip's wife is named Shannon.

      "Then there's a $1,200 contribution from 'J Wilson', and Chip's son is named J.J.

      "Another 'J Wilson' contributed $200 and then there's $110 from 'D Wilson'.

      "It's impossible to say if the final 'Wilson' donation is from former NPA park commissioner Duncan Wilson or another one of Chip's sons, Duke Wilson."