NDP leader John Horgan speaks to rally at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver Sunday.

ELECTION 2017: Union backing revives donor debate

NDP ads hammer B.C. Liberals for corporate donations, while United Steelworkers pay senior NDP campaign staff

Big donors and foreign donors have been a defining issue of the 2017 B.C. election, with most of the attention on B.C. Liberal leader Christy Clark and the millions in corporate donations the ruling party has collected.

NDP attack ads focus on donations from property developers while housing prices soared in Metro Vancouver, and a $50,000-a-year party salary for Clark that has since been replaced by undisclosed expenses for her party activities.

But as the campaign began, the biggest donation ever in the province was reported by Elections BC, more than $600,000 from the United Steelworkers. The windfall came from the party’s U.S. headquarters and various locals representing mostly forest industry employees in B.C.

Then the NDP confirmed that its two senior election staffers, campaign director Bob Dewar and deputy director Glen Sanford, are contract employees of the United Steelworkers, hired and assigned to run the campaign.

NDP leader John Horgan has campaigned for years on the corrupting influence of big money, said Green Party leader Andrew Weaver, who has declined all but personal donations.

“How can you trust a leader who publicly talks about how big money corrupts politicians, and then quietly goes into a back room and strikes a deal with a union to have them pay for his senior staff?” Weaver said.

Horgan held a campaign rally at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver Sunday, where he targeted the B.C. government’s proposal to allow private surgical clinics where patients can stay up to three days. Health care unions have supported the NDP campaign.

NDP candidate Judy Darcy, a former executive with the Hospital Employees’ Union, called it “a scheme to create for-profit hospitals that only [Clark] and her rich donors can afford.”