The business of academia

The UBC Properties Trust is a private company, owned by the University of British Columbia, "with a mission to acquire, develop and manage real estate assets" on behalf of the post-secondary institution. But it seems the company's activities aren't just benefiting the university and, by extension, its students. They're also benefiting some of the province's politicians.

According to a review of Elections British Columbia filings, the property trust has contributed $3,883 to the provincial Liberals since 2001. In an interview with Public Eye, New Democrat advanced education critic Rob Fleming slammed those donations saying, "I think any post-secondary institution contributing to the Liberal Party is objectionable. And those monies should be returned by that party to the institution. It all speaks to the need to have a better system in British Columbia around campaign financing."

But Liberal communications director Chad Pederson says, in 2005, his party stopped accepting donations from the properties trust. "They operate independently from UBC and they do not receive funding from UBC. But we decided we would not accept donations from them from that point forward."

And, for his part, University of British Columbia public affairs director Scott McRae clarified the older donations "were for the premier's dinners. And, similarly, under the previous government, (the trust) had purchased tickets to their dinners as well as a part of normal business networking."

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