Corporate sponsorships for Vancouver premiers’ conference raise questions

Twenty-six organizations

invested between $5,000 and $50,000 to sponsor the two-day premiers' meeting in Vancouver this week.

The list of sponsors include companies from the gas and oil, transportation and pharmaceutical industries.

While organizers claim sponsorships are simply a way to defer costs and that sponsors have no special access to the premiers, some question the appropriateness of big business sponsoring an inter-governmental meeting.

The Victoria Times Columnist editorial board criticized the practice.

"Convention organizers often seek sponsors willing to pay to curry favour with attendees. But the country's premiers shouldn't be asking corporations to subsidize their meetings," it wrote.

"The companies are spending money in the interests of shareholders. They must feel they will gain special access to the premiers, or favourable consideration in future. Even if they don't, the perception will exist."

David Schreck, a former advisor to Ujjal Dosanjh when he was premier of British Columbia, is calling for the government to provide full disclosure of how sponsors for the premiers' conference were recruited and what, if anything, they were promised to open their chequebooks.

"We've grown accustomed to seeing corporate sponsorships everywhere," he wrote. "But a line has to be drawn when those sponsorships throw into question the objectivity of key decision makers on matters of public policy."

Just what is the motivation for 26 organizations to collectively dole out approximately $260,000 in sposnsorships for such an event?

(Reuters Photo)