New Democrat House Leader Mike Farnworth is calling on the provincial government to force Coquitlam First to disclose who funded its campaign effort. The Liberal-linked group ran a slate of seven candidates in the recent civic election, spending $100,000 to promote them. But, because it didn't register as an electoral organization, it isn't required to report who donated to its coffers. In an interview with Public Eye, Mr. Farnworth said, "They talked liked a political party, they campaigned like a political party and they advertised like a political party. So they were a political party. And the fact they weren't registered is just a convenient loophole."
When questioned about Mr. Farnworth's demands, Community Services Minister Ida Chong said her civil servants routinely consult with local authorities about amendments that could impact the way future elections are run. But Minister Chong added the Campbell administration is not presently contemplating any changes that would force Coquitlam First to retroactively disclose its contributions.
And was that decision influenced by the fact Coquitlam First campaigner Brian Bonney - who is advocating against such a disclosure - is also a Liberal field organizer? "He's an individual who was involved in a municipal campaign," responded the minister. "Certainly he gets involved in provincial campaigns as well. And when you get involved in a municipal campaign it's your volunteer time that allows you to be involved and engage in that. And he's certainly entitled to express his views and solicit whatever support he has on that. Our views - mine and our ministry - is to follow the process that's been in place for a number of years. And to ensure that - if changes are necessary, if and when they're necessary - we'll put them in place for 2008."
But Minister Chong also stated, "I realize people want to know who's donated to campaigns. And, quite frankly, I think people should want to disclose...So, you know, if there's pressure applied perhaps there will be a willingness on the part of the individuals to be more public" about who contributed to the Coquitlam First campaign.