Deja Vu All Over Again: The 2017 BC Liberal/2015 UK Conservative Campaign

When Jim Messina, the former campaign manager for Barrack Obama in 2012 and a former campaign strategist with David Cameron’s successful 2015 Conservative campaign in the UK, arrived as a guest for the BC Liberal Convention in November of 2016, you can’t help but get the feeling that he might have been somewhat awkwardly embarrassed by what was laid out before him.  What he would have seen was a Provincial campaign (in more than one sense of the word) that would have been awkwardly familiar to him in terms of the campaign materials, the whole “Team” concept, as well as familiar campaign slogans and materials.  Let me show you what I mean.

Campaign Materials

For those that may be unaware, take a look at these campaign materials.  Note the numerous similarities in terms of the fonts, the colours, the message, etc.

And what about those “Say Anything John” graphics from the BC Liberal Caucus, remember them?

Here’s the 2015 UK campaign version.  And does these remind you of anything?

On a sidenote, the “Say Anything” angle from the 2015 UK campaign could have possibly been one could argue the basis for the expensive and wildly unsuccessful “Say Anything John” campaign promoted by the shadowy group Prosperity BC with ties to former staffers of Stephen Harper. Remember that?

Below are a few more additional examples of similarities in terms of the digital campaign materials between the Team 2015 and TeamBC2017 campaigns.  Again note the similarities in the use of colours, fonts, etc.  Not only do they look like they could originate from the same campaign, they look like they could originate from the same digital influencer on the same day sitting at the same computer.

Or how about these two? One of the graphics is from the BC Liberal Caucus and the other from the Conservative Party in the UK.

The #TeamBC2017 Concept

A clearly ripped off borrowed concept is the whole contrived #TeamBC2017 concept.  The TeamBC2017 concept is quite clearly a near carbon copy of the “Team 2015” volunteer recruitment initiative in the UK that was originally set up by the UK Conservatives in 2013 in order to organize volunteers to specifically target swing ridings and in an attempt to lure young people to join a largely greying group of Conservative supporters.  In the UK, they used a reward system where the top volunteers earned a visit with the Prime Minister and included mass photographs with T-shirted clad supporters and socials timed around specific political events.  These supporters were sent around in buses in key seats to campaign for the party similar manner that TeamBC2017 parachutes volunteers into various ridings in which they clearly have very little actual local support.

Here are some images from the Team 2015 campaign in the UK contrasted with the TeamBC2017 campaign.  Again note all the similarities.

Here too, similar to the Team 2015 campaign, is the resorting to contests to meet the great leader.  Note the contest at the bottom.

Party Youth

As mentioned previously, the Team 2015 concept in the UK included having social events coincided around political milestones.  Fast forward to the TeamBC2017 campaign where young BC Liberals actually organized socials around budget day (I kid you not).   You would have to think that only the most fervent and ardent of the right wing youth supporters would have turned up for those barnburners.

Familiar Sloganeering and Platforms

Another similarity between the two UK Conservative campaign and the BC Liberal Campaign where similarities can be seen is in regards to the slogans used by the two campaigns and the two party campaign platform documents.  In the 2015 campaign, the UK Conservatives utilized this slogan:

with the Conservative Party Manifesto being entitled as follows:

Contrast that with the current 2017 BC Liberal Campaign introduced just last week where we have this as a campaign slogan

with this being the access point to the BC Liberal 2017 platform having a similar title and theme.  Again, note all the obvious similarities.  Seems familiar doesn’t it?

So taken as a whole what is this all indicative of you might ask?  It is of course symptomatic and reflective of a party and leader that has become stale and completely devoid of new ideas and that has resorted to stealing lock, stock, and barrel an entire electoral campaign of another Conservative party in the hopes of repeating their electoral success.  Can the entire strategy be traced back to Ex-Pat Ben James, part of them BC Government caucus?  I would likely say more than likely yes.  Whether it the stolen campaign is successful or not remains to be seen but clearly no marks should be given for originality should the BC Liberals win.

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Behind the File: Reconstructing #Paytoplay BC Liberals Style

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The recent release of the “real-time” donations to the BC Liberal Party for 2016 on their website in PDF form has created some unique opportunities as the recently released data can be used in an attempt to identify the donors present at specific BC Liberals fundraising events and to attempt to identify the fundraising haul garnered at these events well in advance of when you normally would be able to so (once the full fiscal year filings have been submitted to Elections BC).  As such, the analysis of this data can be attempted well in advance of the upcoming election and I must thank the BC Liberals braintrust for that opportunity.

Examining the names, amounts, and dates of donations and cross-referencing this data with the known big money fundraising events that took place in 2016, one can use the data provided in order to attempt to reconstruct who was at certain fundraising events and how much money was donated at each of these events.   A simple compiled search by date provides one with the amounts donated on that date and identifies the specific people and corporations that more than likely would have been present at any of the specific fundraising events that took place last year.  Of all the possible cash for access events from the past year sponsored by the BC Liberal party that I could have choosen to examine, I choose to focus on the BC Liberals Annual Interior Leaders Golf Invitational Tournament that took place at Predator Ridge Golf Course on September 22, 2016.

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For those that may not be familiar with the event, the Interior Leaders Golf Invitational event is billed as one of the biggest fundraisers for the year for the BC Liberals. The big money price structure for attending the event is presented below.

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As you can see, for a mere $4,000, your foursome would receive a round of golf, dinner, a $400 voucher for accommodation at Predator Ridge and, wait for it, the opportunity to have a BC Liberal MLA be your caddie.  Yes you read that right.  In BC you can literally “pay-to-play” and have a BC Liberal MLA even carry your bags (this is nothing new I must say as this event has been taking place since at least 2014).

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Actual unaltered image from original website (I kid you not).

I chose to focus on this specific date and this particular tournament for two reasons: First, it represents possibly the most egregious and outrageous of the “pay-to-play”/access buying fundraising events sponsored by the BC Liberals in 2016, especially given that the BC Liberals knowingly choose to go ahead once again with the event despite vocal protestations of those wanting to ban the influence of big money in B.C. politics, polling that suggest that 86% of British Columbians want to ban big money from BC politics, and the movement in other jurisdictions to ban these types of big money events.  Secondly, it kind of made sense to focus on that specific event as I had already written an extensive tongue-in-cheek blog post about the event previously.

A few caveats regarding the data presented below and its interpretation:

First, it is possible that the resulting data provided by the “date only” search possibly includes people and corporations who just randomly happened to have donated to the BC Liberal party on September 22, 2016 or had their donation processed on September 22, 2016 and as such, there may be many represented in the table below that were not actually physically at the golf tournament itself.  In some cases, this is entirely possible, while in other cases, I’m pretty sure that those individuals were at the golf tournament given their ties to some of the major sponsors (I’ll come back to this point later on).  Secondly, it should be noted that only daily donation totals are provided in the data set provided by the BC Liberal party.  As such, there are no breakdowns of the amounts donated.  Accordingly, a $10,000 donation on that date could represent a single hole sponsorship or two $5,000 hole sponsorships, donations as a result of successful bids on the accompanying silent auction (side note: are those auction items a taxable benefit that should be declared if the money used to purchase them is tax deductible as a political donation?), etc.  Hard to tell really so I will just try to guess at what the amounts could have been for.  Anyway enough of the caveats and on to the data itself.  Below is a table containing the top 16 (those over $1,000) of the 161 donations reported on September 22, 2016 listed in descending dollar amount order.  The entire list in descending order is presented at the bottom of this post.

A quick review of the data suggests a number of things:

First, despite the perception that corporations are lining up and falling over themselves to ante $50,000 up to be a top sponsor at these types of events, this does not appear to be the case as it does not appear that there were any takers for the title sponsor roll despite it being offered.  There were only five exactly $50,000 donations to the party (see below) and all of these took place well (many months) before the golf tournament date so it is unlikely that any of them represent top sponsor donations for the tournament.

50-k-donations

Second, it appears that there could only have been one possible Crystal Sponsorship (from Encana) and only one possible Platinum Sponsorship (from a Patricia Trottier, who appears to be the spouse of former Encana CEO Gwyn Morgan) at the event (assuming that they actually paid for the sponsorship rather than just making a straight up donation of course).  That Calgary-based Oil and Gas giant Encana (and related folk) likely represent the largest singular source of donor money at the event should surprise no one as Encana has been a major contributor to the BC Liberals for years and with no restrictions on out of Province or Out of Country donations, it is all entirely legal and on the up and up in BC Liberals #NotRealWorld.

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Source: Vancouver Observer

From there it is quite difficult to establish with any certainty who paid for what as while the $10,000 donations made by Canadian Forest Products Limited, Chevron Canada Limited, Interfor, London Drugs Limited, McElhanny Consulting Services Limited, Terminal Forest Products, and West Fraser Mills Limited while all noted on that day, could possibily represent putting hole sponsorships (@$10,000), multiple hole sponsorships (@$5,000 a crack), regular foursomes (@4,000), or sign sponsorships (@1,000) or some combination thereof potentially with some cash donations possibly being involved as well.  Or as noted previously entirely random donations on that date (I do have to accept that possibility).

It is interesting to note that the listed $4,000 fee for a foursome (including having an BC Liberals MLA as a caddie no less) does not appear in any of the donations listed on September 22, 2016.  One could assume that either they had no takers for this guilded pay- to-play opportunity (highly, highly unlikely) or that the fee was somehow raised to total $4,500 on the tournament date or that the donors were asked to also donate the room values that went along with the fees (more likely given the $4,500 donations from Imperial Metals Corporation (of Mount Polley fame), Neptune Bulk Terminals, Pretium Resources Limited, and Raymond James Limited) or that it was some how topped up to make it $4,500 rather than $4,000 as listed.  I suppose it is also possible that the foursome fees could have been subsumed within some of the larger donation amounts rather than being for specific holes, etc. or that the $4,000 fees were processed on other dates. Can’t really say for sure.

What immediately struck me when looking at the larger donations listed above on this particular date was what appears to be a significant representation (or over representation if you will) of major forestry industry players who appear to have been possibly present at this particular event.  Was there a concerted, conscious, and coordinated effort by major Forest Industry Players to schmooze and/or lobby the BC Liberals at this specific event on this specific day?  Who knows?  Maybe.  At the very least that is certainly a possibility. Or did they all just randomly donate to the BC Liberals that day? Dunno.

So in total, the BC Liberals took in on September 22, 2016 (whether all at the golf tournament or not) a total of $144,975.99 or a total of less than approximately 1.2% of the entire yearly fundraising total for 2016.  Interestingly, this amount doesn’t even really rate when you plot donations by date (see chart below and the table below that).  In fact, the donations on September 22, 2016 come in a modest 28th out of the total 88 donation days reported.

total-donations-by-date-to-bc-liberals

Still, while ~$144,000 is not a bad haul for a single day, but as can be seen from the chart above and the table below, it certainly does not appear to represent one of their biggest fundraising dates or events of the year unlike what the BC Liberals appear to suggest.  They certainly could quite easily have gotten away bowing to public pressure and cancelling the event without affecting their bottom line in any shape or form but that just wouldn’t be the BC Liberals way would it?

A few other interesting things to note, one of the biggest single fundraising day of the year was February 28, 2016 where a cool $1,648,565.00 was raised.  This likely coincides with general year end tax year related donations, followed by December 31, 2016 which I would again suggest represents the final push for use it or lose it 2016 political tax credits.  (Edit: Bob Mackin in his thebreaker.news site has just written an excellent article suggesting that the spike in donation in late February is related to a private dinner held on February 26 at the Wall Centre which was attended by a number of well-heeled party donors including a number of major players in the real estate industry).

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All this of course just lends further credence that indeed we are living in the “Wild West of Politics” as the recent New York Times written by Dan Levan said, an article that Rich Coleman described as being “laughable”

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describing a topic that noted BC Liberals apologist Don Fast said that no one but “no jobs” lefties cares about.

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Sorry Mr. Coleman (Minister of Natural Gas Development, Minister Responsible for Housing, Deputy Premier, and Minister Responsible for General Chortling) and Mr. Fast.  Having your government called out for corruption and being open to influence peddling is not laughable, especially when the author is demonstrably correct.  As Mr. Levin suggests, this type of pay-to-play access would be illegal in most other jurisdictions within Canada and the United States.  But the BC Liberals disagree.  I guess it is true that those closest to corruption can’t see it.

Well there’s my kick at the can.  Other events could be given the same treatment so I encourage others to take up a different event and see what results you get.

Technical Note: For those interested, here is a link to download a Microsoft Excel sheet which appears to include all of the donations listed in the original PDF published by the BC Liberal Party.  It is in a much easier form to manipulate and search rather than the original PDF distributed by the BC Liberal party.  I do not and can not in any way vouch for the absolute accuracy of the file or the data presented here or above but will say that my by hand search for the donations on September 22, 2016 produced the exact same results as the Excel file linked.  I created the file after stumbling across a comma delineated data set on the net and then manipulating the data a bit as there were commas in the original donor field that made the first stabs at importing the data problematic.  Have at it.

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Donations to the BC Liberal Party Recorded on September 22, 2016

It should be noted that the total amount of donations that I get from the linked Excel file is $12,157,771.52 which is quite a bit less than the ~$12.3m reported in various media accounts and the total of $12,474,088.00 that you get when adding the values presented by the BC Liberals on their website.

2016-values

I don’t know what that exactly means other than there seems to be a discrepancy of ~$316,316.00 with the BC Liberals seemingly over reporting their 2016 contributions by this amount. And why this differs from the media accounts and where they got that ~$12.3 figure originally I don’t know.

Lastly I will leave you with this, a list of the largest single donations to the BC Liberals $10,000 and above in 2016 in descending order.  Have a scan through the list.  These are the big money people and corporations who call the shots in the Province B.C.  Not you or I.

10-k-plus

 

What is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals?

Forestry Priority #1
Christy Clark at the Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention in Kelowna, stating that achieving a softwood lumber agreement was her #1 Priority.  Or is it?
On April 8, 2016 at the recent Council of Forest Industries’ Annual Convention in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark suggested that achieving a softwood lumber agreement was her #1 Priority.  She subsequently repeated this claim several times on social media.  For those following the Premier and her recent speeches and public appearances this statement was (and is) somewhat perplexing and may have inspired more than a few people out there to pause for thought as just over a month ago (in March 2016) when speaking to reporters after her speech at the GLOBE Clean-Tech Conference Christy Clark said that securing federal cash to upgrade the hydro grid between BC and Alberta was the #1 priority of her government.

NO 1 Province

Also perplexing is the fact that a month prior in February, 2016, Clark said that BC’s two priorities are LNG and new softwood lumber accord with the U.S. with the softwood lumber accord being the top priority.  And prior to that, in the BC Chamber of Commerce Public Affairs Update published on October 26, 2015, Christy Clark is noted as having said that “the top priority remains the development of LNG in BC”.  This same claim (that LNG was priority #1) was stated by Christy Clark on December 10, 2014 in an interview with two Bloomberg writers in New York.  Also, previously one may remember that during the confrontation with the BCTF in 2014 that she tweeted out (on August 31, 2014) that class composition in BC Schools is Priority #1 because “students’ needs come first”.Clark Priorty 1 2014

In 2014 while addressing the Fort Nelson Chamber of Commerce she was quoted as saying that her top priority was the economy.  In 2013, during the election campaign Christy Clark was noted as having stated that fixing schools (doing seismic upgrades) was her top priority with her stating that “absolutely, nothing is more important than keeping our kids safe”.  In 2012 Premier Clark was also noted as having said that job growth was her number one priority.  Also in 2012, the then Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Skills Training, Pat Bell was quoted in a BC Liberal Caucus News Release as stating that “Job creation is our government’s number one priority“.  And in a survey response to the B.C. Trucking Association, the BC Liberal Party stated that the “Number one priority for Today’s BC Liberals is growing the economy to get to a debt-free BC“.

This apparent #1 Priority confusion is not exactly new for Christy Clark too.  On July 30, 2012 at a Women-only gathering hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce, Christy Clark is quoted as saying her “My #1 Priority is Liquefied Natural Gas.”  Showing this confusion in the same speech at the same event (no less) she is noted as having said that families must be considered Priority #1 by Victoria.

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Christy Clark at July 31, 2012 Women-Only gathering hosted by the Columbia Valley Chamber of Commerce
Wait a second.  What gives?  What exactly is going on here?  How could all these things be Priority #1?  Is that even possible?  One would think perhaps that a wet behind the ears BC Liberal staffer in short pants could be responsible for at least some of these inconsistencies but more often than not, the Priority #1 claims are coming directly from the mouth of Christy Clark herself.  And what about that the “Families First” mantra repeated ad nauseam by Christy Clark and the BC Liberals during the last Provincial election?  You may remember that after being elected in 2013 Christy Clark was quoted as saying “My top priority will be to put families first” even though the “Families First” mantra quite clearly hasn’t exactly been either followed or is an appropriate slogan for this government.  Where exactly does “Families First” fit it in amongst all these #1 Priorities?   If families are first, aren’t they Priority #1?Families First

It has become a truism in politics that actions speak louder than words and you would be forgiven for thinking that over the past few years that LNG, Site C, running a secretive government (as exemplified by the Triple Delete Scandal), protecting corporate donations to the Liberal Party (as evinced by their recent vote to protect their corporate donations and not ban corporate and union donations), the Massey Bridge fiasco (the publicly funded opening and commercialization of the Lower Fraser River at taxpayer expense in order to facilitate deep sea oil and LNG tankers), underfunding education so that the money could be on pet projects such as LNG and Site C could at various times be considered the #1 Priority for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  Where exactly are families in that last?  Not first and they certainly are not Priority #1 that’s for sure.

So what can you say about all this apparent Priority #1 confusion?

Well, it appears in most cases that what is stated as being Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals depends on the audience and the situation in which it is being stated.  In practice though it really depending on the perceived political bonus points that could be scored with the audience to which the Priority #1 message is being conveyed.  An evaluation of whether or not saying it could be considered a “quick win” if you will.  A “tell them what they want to hear and hope that nobody notices” kind of strategy.  Could the more recent confusion and shifting of Priority #1 status signify a change in direction policywise and a tacit admission and realization that with the failing fortunes of LNG and no hope in that regard on the immediate horizon that the BC Liberals need to prioritize and rejig their message and downplay the importance of LNG to have any hope of being re-elected?  Not really sure.  Possibly though.

Then what really is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals?  Quite clearly, Priority #1 is to get re-elected at any and all costs.  It is a do anything and say anything free-for-all in that regards where the ends justify the means (as we have seen in the Triple Delete scandal).  Want to ignore WCB regulations to get a photo-op in?

Former Coquitlam-Burke Mountain BC Liberal Candidate Joan Isaacs and BC Liberal MLAs Linda Reimer (Port Moody-Coquitlam), Peter Fastbender (Minister Responsible for Translink), and Richard Lee (Burnaby North) ignoring WCB regulations to get yet another photo-op in.
Sure, no problem.  Want to set up an exclusive photo op/meeting with the Minister of Education, and local BC Liberal friendly school superintendent, and local school trustees and have a photo taken during working hours in your campaign office in front of a campaign sign?  Sure, no problem.

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From left to right: SD43 Superintendent Patricia Gartland, BC Liberal Candidate Joan Isaacs (Coquitlam-Burke Mountain), Minister of Education Mike Bernier, SD43 Chair Judy Shirra, SD43 Trustee Barb Hobson, taken during the recent by-election in Coquitlam-Burke Mountain.
Want to blur the lines between party advertisements and government advertising?  Sure no problem.  Want to delete anything to do with the business case for the Massey Bridge?  Sure, no problem.  Want to use government resources and campaign on the public’s dime?  Sure.  Want to use public money for political ads?  Absolutely.  At least if Christy Clark and the BC Liberals came out and admitted that getting re-elected is Priority #1 I would at least appreciate their honesty and would actually believe what they are saying.  You know, like when then BC Liberal Candidate Dan Ashton MLA for Penticton stated in 2012 after winning the BC Liberal nomination that “Our No. 1 priority is that we have to see the NDP doesn’t get elected…“.  The actions of the BC Liberals and their supporters over the next year leading up to the next Provincial election will quite clearly reveal what indeed is Priority #1 is for this Christy Clark and the BC Liberals.  Just wait for it.  And don’t be fooled by the last minute money that will be thrown at Education, raises in welfare rates, raises in minimum wage, etc. in an effort to garner votes and favour.  It is all part of what we all know is Priority #1 for Christy Clark and the BC Liberals:  Getting to Yes to re-electing the BC Liberals.  And what about families?  They are “first”, right after all the #1 Priorities.

Edit: I happened to come across a letter written by Rich Coleman to the Major of Fort St. John which continues the storied tradition of the BC Liberals in telling the audience what they want to hear.  In the letter, Mr. Coleman states that “LNG remains the highest priority of the Province” (see below).  Old habits die hard. And the Trumpian “BCFirst” mantra unveiled while instigating a new tax on foreign investors.  Please.  Just more of the same old, same old.

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