The oil and gas sector contributed more than $311,000 to the B.C. Liberal party in 2016, an amount that though significant was eclipsed by a just a handful of the province’s real estate industry players.
The Liberals raised almost $12.5 million last year, including nearly $8 million in corporate donations, according to a campaign finance disclosure the party released Jan. 13
Parties have until March 31 to release their disclosures from the previous year. But faced with mounting criticism over the province’s lax campaign finance regime and a controversial top-up of Premier Christy Clark’s public salary, the party released its contribution list early.
Based on an analysis by the Dawson Creek Mirror, oil and gas industry donors made up just under four per cent of corporate donations the Liberals received last year.
Oil and gas, pipeline, and oilfield service companies and an industry group contributed a total of $311,720.
That amount does not include mining, clean energy, camp service or construction companies. Also left out were commercial fuel suppliers and energy project employees who made individual contributions.
Overall, the entire oil and gas industry donated less than Vancouver real estate players Peter and Bruno Wall, who gave $400,000 in total.
B.C.’s campaign finance system is an outlier in that it allows unlimited corporate and union donations from anywhere in the world. It is also one of the few provinces to allow a party to pay a salary to a sitting premier.
Kai Nagata, a spokesperson with the Dogwood Initiative, said Clark’s $50,000 a year top-up amounts to interest groups paying a portion of the premier’s salary. Dogwood is campaigning to ban corporate and union donations in B.C., a policy endorsed by the B.C. NDP.
Late last week, the premier announced she would no longer take the salary, saying it had become a “distraction” after a scathing New York Times report on B.C.’s “Wild West” campaign finance regulations.
Nagata said financial disclosures are a good indicator of who is getting face time with members of government.
“It’s a metric of how often members of government come into contact with people from those industries,” he said. “The donation record is more reflective of the number of meetings and events rather than the desire of a given industry to seek influence.”
“Some of those numbers you see are from banquets and fundraisers that industry folks willingly attend, but some of them are apparently the result of a practice by the B.C. Liberals of forcing different companies or proponents to run the gauntlet of party staff before they get a meeting with a minister,” he added.
Encana Corp. was the single largest oil and gas industry donor, contributing $65,250 to the party in 2016.
“Encana believes it’s important for all stakeholders to engage constructively in the democratic process,” the company wrote in an email when asked its reasons for contributing. “As a company, we support political parties that share our goal of responsible development along with increased economic and employment opportunities in B.C.”
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) contributed $11,225, records show.
“Like many business groups we show our support for the political process by participating in political events where the election contribution laws allow that participation,” spokesperson Elisabeth Besson said in an email. “CAPP seeks to work collaboratively with governments and opposition of all political stripes and we participate in events sponsored by various political parties.”