Independent mayoral candidate Kennedy Stewart launched a challenge Tuesday to other mayoral candidates competing to become Vancouver’s next mayor to disclose donors to their campaigns before advance voting begins Oct. 10.
Stewart has regularly disclosed his donors on his campaign website and wants other mayoral candidates to follow a precedent set in the 2014 campaign. That’s when mayoral candidates from Vision Vancouver and the NPA, plus the campaigns of COPE, OneCity and the Greens, disclosed their donors prior to the election.
“Every debate I ask [the other candidates] and nobody says anything—they all just look uncomfortable,” Stewart told the Courier. “They should be doing this. We’ve got a change election, it’s a very different landscape and the electorate are looking for who they can trust, and that’s why I’m doing this.”
NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that “we’re working on it right now,” when asked about disclosing his donors prior to election day; he made the comment prior to Stewart issuing his challenge via a news release.
“Our plan is to release information on anyone who’s donated more than $100,” said Sim, whose news conference was billed as the party bringing “transparency and accountability back to city hall.”
In his opening lines at his news conference, Sim pointed out Stewart received the endorsement of the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which came with the distribution of 100,000 flyers mailed to residents promoting Stewart and other candidates endorsed by the council.
The distribution of the flyers occurred prior to the campaign period and had no spending limits.
Sim also mentioned the billboards around town featuring Yes Vancouver mayoral candidate Hector Bremner, which were paid for by Peter Wall of Wall Financial, according to a report in the Globe and Mail newspaper.
“It’s really disappointing and, frankly, goes completely against the spirit of the new electoral transparency rules,” said Sim, referring to new rules in play this campaign that ban union and corporate donations and limit donations to $1,200.
Tim Crowhurst of the Yes Vancouver campaign said in an email to the Courier that they planned to follow the existing rules set by the provincial government and will disclose donors after the Oct. 20 election. The deadline for candidates, parties and third-party advertisers to file their donor list and contributions with Elections B.C. is Jan. 18, 2019.
“We will be following the rules, not Kennedy’s games,” said Crowhurst, who questioned Stewart’s challenge, pointing out the former NDP MP’s association to the Vancouver and District Labour Council, which boasts 50,000 union members in the city.
A couple hours later, Bremner tweeted: "Yes will disclose our donations prior to advance voting and once again prior to Oct. 20th. I hope you will join me in calling on the VDLC to disclose all of its spending in support of Vision, OneCity, Green and COPE candidates prior to Sept. 21, and if any voter lists have been shared."
Asked about his connection to the labour council, Stewart said the organization has not hidden its support for him and other 26 candidates featured on the flyers. The front of the flyer features a large photo of Stewart. The back of the flyer lists candidates for school board, park board and city council.
The candidates belong to OneCity, Vision Vancouver, COPE and the Greens.
Coalition Vancouver, which is running mayoral candidate Wai Young, said in an emailed response to Stewart’s challenge that the party had no ties to developers, big business, or unions.
“We are 100% for the people,” the email said. “Socialist Stewart has already used a loophole in the rules to accept money from unions prior to the writ being dropped so we all know where his bread is buttered.”
Independent candidate Shauna Sylvester accused Stewart of "engaging in theatrics."
"We have municipal financing rules in place that set a limit of $1,200 per persons, which ensures that there is no big money directly involved in any campaign," she said in an email to the Courier. "Where big money can come into play--whether by unions or by corporations is in third party support. That is where there needs to be disclosure. I'm not only running my campaign within the letter of the law, I'm adhering to the spirit of the law."
A total of 1,195 donors contributed $123,556.95 to Stewart’s campaign, between May 10 and Sept. 24. Seven out of 10 of Stewart’s donors contributed less than $100, with the average donation $103.40. Some notable donors include Fin Donnelly, NDP MP for Port Moody-Coquitlam, who gave $1,200, former NPA president Dale McClanaghan ($1,150) and former NDP MP for Vancouver-East, Libby Davies ($400).
Note: This story has been updated since first posted.