Individual donations from development company owners, executives, and their family members may present a risk of undue influence on our city’s political process. As a city councillor, I will not take any money from an individual that is associated with the development industry and could stand to profit from a development application I would be giving input on, and ultimately voting on.
I read Hunter Madsen’s article in the Vancouver Sun from July 17, 2022, which details how 2017 campaign finance reform, which put an end to donations from companies, unions, and other organizations, did not remove the potential for undue influence from the owners and top executives of development companies. Hunter has brought up an important loophole that we need to somehow close in our democracy. If executives, vice presidents, owners, and family members of developers are major donors to municipal candidates, there is a big risk of undue influence that could compromise city council’s ability to represent the interests of the citizens.
Hunter provides some definition of “undue influence” in a paper that is available on his website as follows:
“Whereas conflict-of-interest infractions usually aim to enrich the official, undue influence infractions usually aim to favor the private interests of the official’s donors and personal or business associates, in open-ended exchanges of mutual helpfulness that can gather momentum over the official’s years in office. Undue influence, a subtle and endemic problem in governance since ancient times, creates divided loyalty in public officials that compromises their exclusive focus on serving the public interest, sometimes tainting decisions of considerable consequence to the future of communities”
Madsen, Hunter 2022 He Who Pays The Piper – Reducing the Risks of Undue Influence in B.C. Governance – A Research Backgrounder accessed sept 16, 2022 from https://developermoney.ca
I thought it would be worth looking at the financial disclosure statements from Coquitam’s 2018 election. Hunter followed a handful of developers and found that people associated with these companies (e.g. CEO, VP etc) had given large donations to candidates in several municipalities. I used a broader, and less disciplined approach than Hunter, and focused on Coquitlam. What I found was over $50,000 in donations to the 2018 campaigns of councillors who are currently on Coquitlam city council. While this creates a risk of undue influence, I cannot blame individual councillors since they were in a competitive election. However, in the spirit of democracy, we should strive to remove this potential influence from our government. Below is a list of the donations I believe to create a risk of undue influence on the political process. The table is sorted by developer and the amount donated represents the total donated to the 8 candidates for council who were elected in 2018. I did not include the mayor in this analysis. This information was gathered from mandatory financial disclosure information available from elections bc. Names of donors contributing large amounts were searched on the internet, where corporate websites and social media sites, such as LinkedIn provided details of the companies that these names were associated with. These associations were not proven through any means other than information publicly available on the internet. If any of it is incorrect, I would encourage the donors to contact me so I can correct my information.
|Laidler Development||Bill Laidler, president||$1000|
|BlueSky by Bosa||Dale Bosa. CEO||$1200|
|Circadian Group||Tony Russo, principle||$1200|
|Bold Properties||Hao Min, CEO|
Qi He, Director
|Polygon||Neil Chrystal, President and CEO||$2400|
|Marcon||Nicholas Paolella, Executive Vice President||$3000|
|Harmony Properties||Ken Helm, president||$3600|
|Beedie||Ryan Beedie, president|
Robert Fiorvento, managing partner
Raffi Houtan, executive VP
|Wesbild||Kevin Layden, president and CEO|
Hassan Khosrowshahi, chairman
Nezhat Khosrowshahi, married to chairman
|Noura Construction||Aram Askarian, executive VP|
Asana Askarian, executive VP
Arash Askarian, employee
Jamileh Askarian, owner
*Cumulative Total To Campaigns of all Candidates Elected in 2018
The solution to this problem is not to single out councillors who were in a competitive election, but rather to task the next council with removing this influence from our government process. This is the ethical thing to do, so that our city council truly represents voters.
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