Developers donate nearly $200,000 to Tri-City candidates in 2022 elections
About $200,000 rolled into Tri-City election campaigns from development industry donors, according to an analysis by the Tri-Cities Dispatch.
Coquitlam candidates topped the list with approximately $98,000 from industry donors, but Port Moody candidates received the most per capita at nearly $70,000. Port Coquitlam candidates received the least, just shy of $33,000 in total.
The Dispatch reviewed the lists of significant contributors (donations over $100) for all 58 Tri-Cities candidates who released their campaign contribution data from the 2022 Municipal Elections. (Coquitlam mayoralty candidate Mark Mahovlich is facing a fine and possible disqualification from future elections after failing to disclose his campaign’s financial statement.)
The analysis defined industry donors as executives of development companies (including family members), and executives of development adjacent firms such as real estate, contractors and consultants.
The numbers listed are conservative estimates, as not all donors could be identified.
In response to criticisms regarding undue influence on policy making, the province amended the Local Elections Act in 2017, banning trade unions and corporations from making direct contributions.
Eligible donors were restricted to contributions of $1,250 a year per candidate in 2022.
Individuals and organizations are also prohibited from making contributions indirectly by providing money, property or non-monetary services to another person to contribute for them.
Port Moody stands as the only city in the Tri-Cities where contributions from the development industry have increased since corporate donations were banned.
Mayor Meghan Lahti raised $44,754 in total, $27,574 of which came from industry donors – more than any other candidate in the Tri-Cities on both counts.
Port Moody’s election had two well-defined camps facing off during the 2022 elections – the self-described “moderate growth” slate under Steve Milani versus more developer-friendly candidates.
Developer contributions were a contentious issue for some, with Milani’s cohort campaigning on their refusal to take money from developers.
Approximately 66 percent of Lahti’s campaign purse was funded by industry donors. Milani raised $21,495, less than half of Lahti’s total.
Executives of Beedie Living were by far the biggest donors in the Tri-Cities, spending $33,599 – nearly half of all industry contributions in Port Moody.
Nine executives from the company (and two of their spouses) donated $12,724 to Lahti’s campaign, 28 percent of her total contributions.
Many of these same donors from Beedie funded significant percentages of other candidate’s campaigns.
For instance, 49 percent of Coun. Diana Dilworth’s campaign contributions came from seven Beedie donors, and 27 percent of Coun. Kyla Knowles’ campaign contributions came from five Beedie donors.
Robert Fiorvento, managing partner at Beedie, was the biggest donor overall, donating $5,424 across six Port Moody candidates, four of whom won a seat on council.
Other big spenders include Surinder Ghog and Bruce Gibson, both executives of AP Group (owner of the Flavelle Mill Site), who spent $6,749 on five candidates; five donors from PCI Group, who spent $6,200 across 4 candidates; and three Wesgroup donors, who spent $5,550 on six candidates.
Beedie Living and the PCI Group are both part of a consortium of development companies planning a major project around Moody Centre SkyTrain Station.
Lahti, and Couns. Samantha Agtarap, Dilworth, and Knowles received a majority of the campaign contributions from industry donors
Aside from the sizable donations from Beedie Living, Lahti received max donations from four members of the Edgar family, associated with Edgar Developments, totalling $5,000, and four donations from PCI Group executives totalling $4,350.
She also received max donations from Ghog of AP Group, Bill Laidler of Laidler Group, a combined $1,250 from James and Judy Howard, associated with Woodbridge Homes, and $600 from Nic Paolella of Marcon Development Group.
Dilworth’s campaign received $11,475 from industry donors, 72 percent of $15,915 raised in total.
She received $7,875 from donors associated with Beedie, $1,000 from Gary Pooni of Pooni Group, $650 from two executives at Wesgroup, and $600 from donors associated with Marcon and PCI Group.
Knowles received $11,600 from industry donors, 66 percent of the $17,580 total raised by her campaign.
She received $4,750 from Beedie executives, $1,400 from three Wesgroup executives, $1,750 total from AP Group donors, and max donations from individuals associated with Woodbridge Homes and RWA Group Architecture.
Coun. Callan Morrison received $6,849 from industry donors, 43 percent of the total $19,915 raised by his campaign.
He received $1,799 total from AP Group donors, $1,500 from two Beedie executives, $1,050 from three Wesgroup executives, and $1,200 from a RWA Group Architecture donor.
Agtarap received $3,100 from industry donors, 51 percent of the total $6,116 raised by her campaign.
Three Beedie executives donated $2,250 to her campaign, and she received a $350 donation from one Wesgroup executive.
Unsuccessful candidates Richard Biedka and Barbara Junker received $5,550 (45 percent of total), and $3,600 (44 percent of total), from industry donors, respectively.
They each received $2,250 from two Beedie executives and a combined $2,100 from three Wesgroup executives.
Biedka also received $1,750 from AP Group donors.
Aside from $250 given to Dustin Chelen by a donor associated with PCI Group, no other candidate took money from industry donors.
In total, Port Moody candidates spent $199,126 running for election in 2022.
Successful candidates raised an average $17,401, while defeated candidates raised an average $8,574.
Port Moody candidates brought in $69,988 from development industry donors in 2022; corporate donations to 2014 candidates totalled $47,903.
Development industry donations decreased dramatically in Coquitlam after corporate donations were banned.
Coquitlam candidates received approximately $98,000 from industry donors last year. In 2014, nearly $300,000 in corporate donations came in, including more than $200,000 from development companies.
Top spending in 2022 came from executives of Wesbild, Marcon, Amacon, Noura Construction, Edgar Development, Onni, Morningstar Homes, Allard Contractors, among others.
Two executives associated with Wesbild were the city’s top contributors, spending $16,200 among seven candidates, all of whom won a council seat.
Nic Paolella of Marcon Development was the single largest donor however, donating a total of $9,850 to nine candidates, seven of whom won a seat on council.
Paolella gave the maximum $1,250 donation to Couns. Teri Towner, Dennis Marsden, Trish Mandewo, Steve Kim, Craig Hodge, Brent Asmundson and Mayor Richard Stewart.
He also contributed $600 to Ben Craig and $500 to former Port Moody councillor Zoe Royer, who was running in Coquitlam.
Marcello De Cotiis of Amacon development company gave donations totalling $8,750 to seven candidates, all of whom won a council seat.
Among council candidates, Coun. Dennis Marsden took the most money from industry donors, estimated at $17,000, accounting for 44 percent of the $38,399 his campaign raised in total.
He received max donations from individuals connected to Beedie Living, Amacon, Harmony Properties, Noura, and Onni.
Mayor Richard Stewart raised approximately $19,250 from development industry donors, 55 percent of the $34,926 raised. Almost all of Stewart’s contributions came in the form of loans.
Max donations came in from members of the De Cotiis family (Amacon and Onni), several donors associated with Boffo development, AP Group of Companies, as well as donors connected to Polygon.
Mayoral candidate Adel Gamar spent a total of $32,762 on his campaign.
Coun. Brent Asmundson raised approximately $15,700 from individuals associated with development companies, amounting to 46 percent of his $34,150 in total donations (not including surplus funds held over from a previous election).
His top donors included executives from Gardenia Homes, Harmony Properties, Polygon, Amacon and Wesbild.
Coun. Craig Hodge raised $13,601 from industry donors, 36 percent of his $37,264 total.
Coun. Trish Mandewo received $8,850 from individuals associated with the development industry, 53 percent of her $16,443 total.
Coun. Teri Towner received $8,750 from development industry donors, accounting for 47 percent of her total donations.
She took donations of $1,000 or more from individuals connected with Noura Construction, Wesbild, Amacon and Marcon.
Industry donors gave approximately $7,250 to Coun. Steve Kim, 28 percent of his total $25,960.
The only two successful candidates who did not take significant amounts of money from development industry figures were newly-elected Couns. Matt Djonlic and Robert Mazzarolo, who raised $34,519, and $22,700, respectively.
Djonlic received one $1,000 donation from Gary Pooni of Pooni Group, and donations from other local politicians, such as MLAs Selina Robinson and Finn Donnelly, MP Bonita Zarrillo, Port Coquitlam Coun. Nancy McCurrach, and outgoing Coquitlam councillor Chris Wilson.
Mazzarolo received one donation from an individual associated with commercial banking.
Successful candidates raised an average of $31,600, while unsuccessful candidates raised an average of $12,080.
The amount raised by candidates who would win election ranged from Trish Mandewo’s $16,443 to the $43,841 raised by Brent Asmundson.
Campaign donations alone were no guarantee of success, however. Harvey Su, who fell about 1,400 votes shy of winning a seat on council, raised $38,510 in total. On the other end of the spectrum, Brian Misera finished last after spending $393 on his self-financed campaign.
All told, Coquitlam council and mayoralty candidates spent approximately $474,700 running for office in 2022.
Candidates in Port Coquitlam took in significantly less cash from developers than their Tri-City counterparts.
The figures are likely deflated as Mayor Brad West did not have any challengers this election cycle.
Steve Dowsley of Dowsley Properties was the largest donor from the development industry, donating $6,250 to five incumbent councillors, who were all re-elected.
Diane Delves of Quantum Properties was a close second, giving $5,950 across six candidates, four of whom were successful.
Four executives of Mosaic Homes were the third largest spenders, spending $4,500 on two candidates
Many of the incumbent candidates still received significant amounts of campaign contributions from the individuals associated with the development industry.
Coun. Darrell Penner brought in the most donations from the industry donors, at $11,500, 61 percent of his $18,700 campaign purse.
He received the maximum donations from individuals associated with Carlson Construction Group, Dowsley Properties, Quantum Properties, Astria Properties, Conwest Group, and Onni Group.
Coun. Glenn Pollock took $7,150 from industry donors out of a total of $10,750 raised, 66 percent of his total donations.
Individuals associated with Quantum Properties, Conwest, and Dowsley Properties maxed out their donations with Pollock. He also received $2,500 from Mosaic Homes donors.
Coun. Dean Washington took $5,050 from industry donors, funding approximately 57 percent of his campaign.
Max contributions came in from individuals associated with Dowsley Properties, Conwest, and Quantum Properties.
Three successful Port Coquitlam candidates, Couns. Nancy McCurrach, Paige Petrw, and Steve Darling, received much smaller donations from development industry figures.
McCurrach’s campaign raised the third most in total, at $13,410, but only took $1,750 from developers, accounting for 13 percent of her donations.
Darling took $1,750 and raised a total of $4,250 for the campaign.
Petrw received $950 from two industry donors out of a total of $11,736 raised, accounting for less than ten percent.
Candidates Sarah Harbord and Dawn Becker, received $3,750, and $1,000 from industry donors, respectively.
Successful candidates raised an average of $11,266, while unsuccessful candidates raised an average of $2,970.
Port Coquitlam is the only city where developers were not the largest donors to candidates. Randy and Brad Doncaster, owners of the Cat and Fiddle Pub, spread a total of $12,400 spread across five incumbent councillors.
Port Coquitlam candidates took over $70,000 in corporate donations during the 2014 elections.
In total, Port Coquitlam candidates spent $145,544 during the 2022 election.
Patrick Penner, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Tri-Cities Dispatch