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BC NDP flush with donated cash, taxpayer subsidies

Party’s annual financial report shows $9.47 million revenue and a $5.84 million surplus in 2021
John Horgan’s BC NDP has reported a $9 million accumulated multi-year surplus, including $5.05 million in land and buildings, $3.48 million in bonds, stocks and other investments and $1.9 million cash on deposit

The BC NDP is running deficit budgets in government, but it’s a different story at party headquarters.

In the annual financial report, released April 6 by Elections BC, Premier John Horgan’s party reported $9.47 million revenue and a $5.84 million surplus in 2021.

It issued $3.62 million in income tax receipts to voluntary donors – who were limited to giving $1,268.07 each in 2021 – but took $3.71 million directly from taxpayers: $2.14 million in partial reimbursement for 2020 election campaign expenses and $1.57 million in the annual per-vote subsidy program. The BC NDP government implemented direct subsidies to political parties when it banned corporate and union donations after coming to power with the support of the Green Party in 2017.

The allowance was originally deemed transitional, but a special all-party committee struck to review campaign financing provisions of the Election Act recommended subsidies become permanent. The NDP government agreed and the legislature passed the amendment last November. The per-vote subsidy was cut from $2.50 to $1.75, but was tied to inflation. Quebec and Ontario have similar funding schemes for political parties.

BC NDP executive director Heather Stoutenberg argued in favour of the permanent subsidy tied to inflation when she appeared at the committee’s May 27, 2021, meeting.

“Annual allowances, in our opinion, are one of the ways that parties can continue to work engaging the public throughout the four-year election cycle, which is incredibly important for, again, our democracy,” Stoutenberg said.

The next election is scheduled for 2024, but the governing party already has financial clout. It reported a $9 million accumulated surplus to Elections BC, including $5.05 million in land and buildings, $3.48 million in bonds, stocks and other investments and $1.9 million cash on deposit. The former includes the investment in a building that houses party headquarters on West 7th Avenue in Vancouver.

The party paid $2.01 million in salaries and benefits in 2021 and owes $1.4 million on a $1.5 million 2019 loan from Community Savings Credit Union. An $850,000 loan from the same credit union, arranged during the 2020 election, has been paid off. 

A dinner at La Terrazza Italian restaurant in Vancouver was the biggest of 37 party fundraisers in 2021. “After Work with the Premier and Minister Kahlon” on Oct. 14 grossed $50,000 from the sale of 50 tickets at $1,000 each.

The party also capitalized on a caucus retreat in Chilliwack with a Sept. 23 event at Farmhouse Brewing with $13,850 from 121 tickets sold. The Elections BC return shows Horgan came with 20 MLAs.

The BC NDP netted $207,562.87 from fundraising events, exponentially more than the BC Liberals ($3,600) and Greens ($774.02).

The BC Liberals events revenue number is asterisk-worthy, because of fundraising for candidate campaigns in the leadership race. Those financing reports are forthcoming. Leadership fees brought in $218,000, but there were $180,000 in related expenses.

Previous leader Andrew Wilkinson had been opposed to public subsidies, but the Elections BC report shows the party took almost $3.02 million in various forms of taxpayer subsidies, including the $1.54 million election expenses reimbursement, $1.1 million annual allowance, and $379,000 in federal wage and rent subsidies. At year-end, the party reported a $4.52 million surplus on $6.9 million revenue.

The party issued $1.125 million in income tax receipts. The report shows one of those who exceeded the annual contribution limit was February-selected leader Kevin Falcon, by a mere $10.

The Green Party recorded $1.09 million in donations and a $497,264.24 annual allowance. Sonia Furstenau’s party has a $2.2 million accumulated surplus.