The BC Liberal Party says Kevin Falcon’s late disclosure that his winning leadership campaign overspent by almost $500,000 didn’t break the rules.
On June 9, Elections BC released Falcon’s campaign finance report that showed it cost $1.078 million to win the race on Feb. 5. Falcon’s biggest line item was $519,396.40 for professional services, followed by $282,002.27 for staff expenses, GST, bad debt and net Liberal Party expenditures, and $106,866.38 for social functions. The report does not name suppliers.
The Leadership Election Organizing Committee (LEOC) February 2021 rules included a $600,000 limit on contestant expenses and requirements to meet both party and Elections BC deadlines for campaign financing reports. The party threatened fines of up to $50,000 or disqualification for non-compliance.
In a prepared statement on June 10, the party’s communications director, David Wasyluk, said Falcon missed the original May 5 deadline because his financial agent was out of the country. Elections BC fined him $500 and granted an extension to June 6.
“The Falcon campaign has provided the party with a detailed breakdown of its expenses, and those expenses have been thoroughly reviewed and audited by party staff,” Wasyluk said. “The BC Liberal Party is confident that the Falcon campaign followed all appropriate guidelines and that their spending did not violate the leadership election rules.”
The statement said various costs are not considered expenses subject to the party’s limit, but are still required to be reported, such as fundraising costs, legal or accounting required to comply with the Election Act, personal expenses and fees related to the leadership contest.
Wasyluk did not provide a breakdown of Falcon costs that the party considers to be compliant with the leadership contest rules.
Falcon’s report did not show any cost of fundraising functions on the Elections BC summary of leadership contestant expenses page, but it showed accounting and audit cost $16,424.71 and Falcon’s personal expenses were $26,288.75. The $519,396.40 professional services sum does not indicate how much went to legal fees.
The summary of expenses shows a crossed-out total $3,234,660.96 below the figure of $1,078,220.32. Falcon’s independent auditor, David Pel, blamed a software glitch. “Every time we made a change and posted the change, it doubled up on the number,” Pel said.
Falcon did not respond to interview requests. Neither did outgoing party president Cameron Stolz or LEOC co-chairs Colin Hansen and Roxanne Helme.
Falcon’s campaign took in $923,576.18, including $816,796.18 in direct donations and the rest in transfers from the central party. As of Feb. 15, Falcon’s leadership campaign owed $100,000 in loans to RBC at a 2.95% interest rate.
He won the Feb. 5 phone and online election on the fifth ballot with 52.19% of weighted votes over runner-up Ellis Ross, the Skeena MLA who had 33.65%.
The race was held under a cloud of controversy as Falcon’s six opponents complained about thousands of fraudulent memberships sold by Falcon’s team. A B.C. Supreme Court judge rejected a party member’s petition that aimed to delay the release of results by 15 days in order to investigate the allegations.
North Vancouver-resident Falcon handily won an April 30 by-election in Vancouver-Quilchena to fill the seat vacated by ex-leader Andrew Wilkinson. Falcon was sworn-in and took his seat in the Legislature on May 16.
The highlight of the party’s Penticton convention last weekend was the decision to study a complete renaming and rebranding of the party before the 2024 provincial election.