The Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre, a registered charity, bills itself as "apolitical." But it donated free tickets to a provincial Liberal fundraiser. And, as a result of the incident, the aquarium says it will now be reviewing its donation policy. Four tickets (valued at $19.95 each) were part of a silent auction at the provincial Liberal's annual Leader's Open Golf Tournament, held earlier this month and attended by Gordon Campbell. In an interview with Public Eye, aquarium spokesman Kent Hurl explained, "We had a prizing request that actually came through one of our partner PR firms" - PACE Communications Group Inc., the company headed by prominent Liberal supporter Norman Stowe. "So we donated prizing to that event in the same way we donated prizing to hundreds of other community and charity events through the year...It's just based on a promotional opportunity."
In fact, Mr. Hurl says the aquarium thought those tickets weren't going to be given away rather than auctioned off. "And, if we had known that, that's not something we'd condone."
Asked whether the aquarium had donated any other tickets to the Liberals in the past, Mr. Hurl said, "I believe the answer to that is yes."
But Mr. Hurl says the aquarium doesn't have any record of having received a request for ticket from the New Democrats or "any group associated with it."
Mr. Hurl said, as a result of this incident, the aquarium external relations team will be conducting a review "to make sure our donation practices reflect our policy of remaining apolitical."
Elections British Columbia communications manager Wendy Stewart says the incident didn't constitute a violation of the Election Act because the total price of the tickets was less than $250.