It was the most expensive election campaign in Richmond’s history.
Over one million dollars (an estimated $1.05 million) was spent by political candidates on a trend-setting municipal election that bore witness to a new big-money slate, a record-setting corporate contribution and an elected candidate who didn’t spend a penny.
The newly formed Richmond Community Coalition led the way in transforming the financial landscape of municipal politics in Richmond with expenditures of $329,000.
The RCC trumped spending by Richmond First, a long-standing slate that has, up until now, led the way in spending.
In 2011 Richmond First spent $120,000 but upped that spending to $196,000 in 2014.
Also contributing to the record spending for seats on City Council and the Board of Education was a record 52 candidates, comprising six political slates — including four new ones — and a large group of independents.
Independent Mayor Malcolm Brodie spent about $290,000 on his campaign, which includes his three annual dinner fundraisers at a cost of $149,000 and $141,000 on other campaign expenditures. Brodie received $170,000 from corporations and has roughly $160,000 left in the coffers for a potential seventh term run in 2018.
The RCC raised $148,000 via corporate donations, compared to Richmond First’s $130,000. While the RCC took $5,300 from unions, Richmond First took in $9,300.
Most corporate contributions were from companies related to real estate development.
Three individuals accounted for significant contributions to the RCC: Communications consultant Bruce Rozenhart contributed $14,000; Developer Dana Westermark of Oris Consulting contributed $6,900 plus a $10,000 loan; and Coun. Chak Au contributed about $15,000.
The RCC also garnered $20,000 from ALW Investments and $5,000 from Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, which operates the River Rock Casino and Resort.
Great Canadian donated $7,500 to Richmond First, which also raised $5,000 each from councillors Linda McPhail and Derek Dang, respectively.
Malik Sian contributed $10,000 to Richmond First via Sian Group Investments and a numbered business.
Berry farmers played a significant role in election funding.
Richberry Farms and BK Farms, owned by Peter Dhillon, contributed $5,000 each to Richmond First while RCC council candidate Sal Bhullar’s company Sunshine Cranberry Farm Ltd. contributed $5,000 to the RCC.
While the RCC spent $19,500 on Internet spending, Richmond First spent $2,500.
Richmond First saw three of its five council candidates (incumbents Linda McPhail, Derek Dang and Bill McNulty) and three of its five school trustee candidates (incumbents Donna Sargent, Eric Yung and Debbie Tablotney) elected. Meanwhile, the RCC saw two council candidates (incumbents Ken Johnston and Chak Au) and one school trustee candidats (Jonathan Ho) elected.
The big spending didn’t stop at the big two slates.
Rookie council candidate Sunny Ho’s company Kam Do Bakery contributed $68,000 in cash to the newly formed Richmond Reform slate — a city record for a contribution from a single entity. Kam Do also contributed roughly $19,000 in donations-in-kind. Ho’s other business, Westminster Development Ltd., also contributed $20,000.
The three-candidate Richmond Reform slate spent a total of $90,000. Its mayoral candidate Richard Lee garnered 27 per cent of the vote.
Also raising the spending bar was RITE Richmond, a new (or transformed) political slate based on the former coalition of independent candidates known as R.I.T.E. The new RITE spent about $26,000 on its campaign and while Coun. Carol Day was elected in sixth spot with 13,389 votes, her two incumbent school trustee colleagues — Rod Belleza and Norm Goldstein — were ousted.
Day, and council candidate Michael Wolfe, personally spent about $7,000 each. RITE was the only slate to disclose its finances before the election.
RITE’s failure at the school board polls left a vacuum for two successful independent candidates — Sandra Nixon and Ken Hamaguchi — who both proved money is not the be-all-end-all to success.
Hamaguchi spent zero dollars on his campaign, instead relying on his professional and community work on autism and his position as executive director of Seafair Minor Hockey (notably, the association said it did not allow Hamaguchi to promote himself via his position). Meanwhile, Nixon spent $345.
Also grabbing a seat on the school board was Alice S. Wong, who defeated the RCC’s Matt Pitcairn by 101 votes.
Wong belonged to the newly formed Renew Richmond slate, which spent $31,000, $17,300 of which came from reported anonymous donations.
Independents played an important role in the election, including Coun. Alexa Loo, who upped her expenditures seven-fold from 2011 by spending $10,600 on her campaign, which was funded primarily by unions. Various CUPE locals, including those at the City of Richmond, donated $3,600 while the Richmond Firefighters Association (IAFF Local 1286) donated $1,000.
Northern Peat Moss Ltd. donated the most to Loo, with a contribution of $2,500.
Loo also got nominal $100 contributions from recently retired councillor Evelina Halsey-Brandt and her husband Greg Halsey-Brandt (former mayor, BC Liberal MLA and independent councillor), as well as Richmond East MLA, Linda Reid.
Loo also took a $500 contribution from Great Canadian.
The chartered accountant received 12,595 votes for the eighth and final seat on council.
Veteran councillor Harold Steves of the Richmond Citizens’ Association, a BC NDP-associated slate, supported Loo. Steves and first-time school trustee candidate Jack Trovato spent close to $10,000 on their RCA campaign, with Trovato falling short on election day.
Meanwhile, Loo and Steves’ unofficial political ally, Dave Semple, the city’s current general manager of parks, spent $26,300 on his independent campaign. Semple was the sixth runner-up with 8,566 votes.
Independent council candidate Jennifer Huang garnered 3,977 votes for her $7,300 in spending, which included $2,488 on furniture and equipment.
Above Huang in the vote count with 4,412 votes was independent Henry Yao, who spent $17,000 of his own money to run for city council. Yao initially spent $500 to apply for the Richmond Community Coalition but decided to run independently. He spent $6,600 on Internet advertisement.
2014 Municipal Election Big Spenders:
Mayor Malcolm Brodie:
Canada China Business Association $7,000
Westmark Development $6,900
Great Canadian Gaming $6,000
Miglian Holdings $6,000
Progressive Construction $6,000
Richmond Community Coalition:
ALW Investments $20,000
Dana Westermark (cash and loan) $16,900
Chak Au $15,000
Bruce Rozenhart $14,000
Rick Ilich (via Townline Homes and numbered business) $10,000
Malik Sian (via Sian Group and numbered business) $10,000
Peter Dhillon (Richberry Farms and BK Ranch) $10,000
Rick Ilich (via Townline Homes and numbered business) $10,000
Great Canadian Gaming $7.500
Yin-Yang Wang $7,000
Kam Do Bakery $87,000
Anonymous donors $17,300
Carol Day $7,000
Michael Wolfe $7,000
Richmond Citizens’ Association: