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HomeCanadian NewsDan Fumano: Have big-money, U.S.-style politics come to B.C.?

Dan Fumano: Have big-money, U.S.-style politics come to B.C.?

Pacific Prosperity Community launched final yr and works behind-the-scenes to assist right-leaning, free-enterprise municipal and provincial candidates get elected

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Some B.C. politicians are warning concerning the rise right here of U.S.-style political motion committees, or PACs, after reviews of huge cash flowing to a brand new group working to assist “pro-business” candidates, beginning with October’s municipal elections.

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Pacific Prosperity Community, or PPN, launched final yr and works behind-the-scenes to assist right-leaning, free-enterprise municipal and provincial candidates get elected. PPN is backed by Vancouver billionaire and Lululemon founder Chip Wilson, who not too long ago despatched a letter urging different rich folks to contribute $50,000 to $200,000 every to PPN, saying he’d donated $380,000 to the trigger.

In his letter, Wilson argued the B.C. NDP’s 2017 marketing campaign finance restrictions, which banned company and union contributions and restricted particular person donations, benefited socialists and unions and sidelined the voices of hard-working enterprise homeowners.

PPN isn’t a political occasion. Its management describes it as a non-profit society that sells software program and coaching providers at value to assist right-leaning candidates win elections. Which means PPN isn’t topic to Elections B.C.’s donation annual limits of $1,250 an individual. It will probably settle for limitless company donations while not having to reveal donors’ identities.

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B.C. Inexperienced Chief Sonia Furstenau stated she had not heard of the Pacific Prosperity Community, “and once I noticed the story, it actually raised issues about that reintroduction of huge cash into B.C. politics.”

“In 2017, the settlement between us and the NDP was to get massive cash out of politics … and that was an essential a part of the settlement.”

“After we have a look at the affect that PACs and super-PACs have in the USA and the position massive cash performs of their political realm, I feel we should always acknowledge the very actual risks and dangers of that,” Furstenau stated, referring to the political motion committees which have change into a controversial and highly effective drive in U.S. politics.

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau.
B.C. Inexperienced Chief Sonia Furstenau. Photograph by Jason Payne /PNG

As B.C.’s lawyer basic in 2017, David Eby introduced his then-new authorities’s marketing campaign reforms to finish big-money company affect over elections.

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Requested Wednesday about PPN, Eby stated: “Fundraising will at all times be a part of politics, however some individuals are clearly annoyed that the wealthy are not capable of purchase handy entry to politicians with personal $10,000-a-plate dinners or six-figure donations.”

“We’re not going again to the dangerous previous days,” stated Eby, who seems poised to change into NDP chief and B.C.’s subsequent premier.

“If I’m elected chief, our authorities will proceed to observe and enhance our marketing campaign financing legal guidelines the place crucial to make sure that all folks, not simply the wealthy, get their voices heard throughout and after elections.”

Furstenau was not the one one evaluating this week’s revelations about PPN to U.S.-style PACs. B.C. NDP MLA Aman Singh shared the Postmedia Information story on Twitter, writing: “Making an attempt to deliver U.S. model tremendous PACs right here. That’s simply deplorable. We’ve seen how democracy is undermined by cash throughout the border.”

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Jas Johal, a former B.C. Liberal MLA who’s now a broadcaster, additionally raised the comparability to U.S.-style PACs Wednesday throughout a dialog with this columnist on his CKNW radio present.

However whereas U.S. PACs have spent enormous sums shopping for promoting to assist their most popular candidates, PPN government director Micah Haince stated his group has no plans to purchase promoting or register with Elections B.C. as a third-party advertiser.

PPN has, nonetheless, found out broadcast political messaging on to tens of 1000’s of politically engaged British Columbians with out being thought-about a third-party advertiser.

PPN is accountable for a Fb web page known as B.C. Proud, Fb transparency disclosures present. Requested concerning the relationship, Haince stated PPN purchased B.C. Proud within the first quarter of 2022. He didn’t disclosed the value.

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B.C. Proud’s Fb web page, which boasts 81,000 followers, was began in 2017 by Jeff Ballingall, president of Mobilize Media Group, an Ontario-based digital media company.

B.C. Proud has run paid political adverts on Fb, however data present they haven’t executed so since early July. B.C.’s pre-campaign guidelines for third-party promoting kicked in on July 18.

Since then, B.C. Proud has continued to put up its personal political messages and redistribute content material from different sources equivalent to a video final week from right-wing B.C. political commentator Aaron Gunn criticizing Vancouver’s mayor and council.

As B.C. Proud posts on to its 81,000-member viewers and doesn’t pay Fb to spice up the posts, Elections B.C. considers them “free social media posts” and never third-party promoting, that means they will put up limitless messages up till election day.

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Elections B.C. spokesman Andrew Watson confirmed: “Social media posts with no placement value should not thought-about election promoting. The acquisition of a web page or viewers doesn’t change this.”

PPN’s social media posts have centered on gasoline costs, known as for eliminating vaccine passports and vaccine mandates, and proven assist for this yr’s truckers’ convoy to Ottawa, together with heralding PPN’s $1,000 donation to the convoy.

Wilson, the Lululemon founder, has been an outspoken critic of the federal Liberals, B.C. NDP and Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart, and has additionally expressed assist for the truckers’ convoy.

Chip Wilson talking to protesters in front of his house in 2019.
Chip Wilson speaking to protesters in entrance of his home in 2019. Photograph by Francis Georgian /PNG

In an interview this yr on Vancouver-based podcast Coastal Entrance, Wilson advised host Andrew Johns: “I used to be so impressed with a lot of the convoy that went to Ottawa, however among the issues about it, however typically it was one of the best factor that ever occurred, the first theme was nice. I feel what it’s exhibiting is that individuals don’t should take heed to authorities, particularly when massive authorities is coming in and taking management over our minds and our pockets.”

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In Vancouver’s final municipal election, Wilson was a high-profile supporter of NPA mayoral candidate Ken Sim. After narrowly dropping to Mayor Kennedy Stewart 4 years in the past, Sim is operating once more this yr with the upstart ABC Vancouver occasion.

Elections B.C. data present Wilson donated $1,200 to ABC final yr, and names matching these of his spouse Shannon and 4 of their kids additionally seem within the data donating the identical quantity.

Reached Wednesday, ABC marketing campaign supervisor Kareem Allam stated: “We admire Chip’s success as a businessman, however on the subject of politics, we’re not values-aligned. And he has no involvement on our marketing campaign, apart from these donations made a yr in the past.”

B.C. Liberal chief Kevin Falcon didn’t reply Wednesday to a request for remark, however Liberal communications director David Wasyluk despatched an e-mail saying the occasion has no involvement with the Pacific Prosperity Community.

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Requested about criticisms from NDP and Inexperienced politicians, PPN’s Haince stated he discovered their objections “humorous” contemplating left-wing politicians in B.C. have benefited for a few years from endorsements of labour unions and environmental activist organizations.

“We’re simply attempting to degree the taking part in discipline. And it’s fully inside the guidelines,” Haince stated. “All you are able to do is play inside the guidelines, and in the event that they proceed to maintain altering them, then no matter — we’ll maintain adapting as nicely.”

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