Credit where it's due

G&F Financial Group paid $5,000 last year to attend a provincial Liberal fundraiser featuring Premier Gordon Campbell, with one of the financial institution's representatives describing the event as an "opportunity to bring issues that are important to our Credit Union to the attention of a governing leader."

In an email dated March 9, 2009, the credit union's sales and services vice-president Jeff Shewfelt wrote, "We do not have a policy to directly support political parties. However, there are occasions where we have to enter the political arena when it is in the best interests of G&F."

"The event with the Liberal party presented an opportunity for the CEO to meet with several credit union members, potential members and the Premier of British Columbia. While not directly attributed to the change, the Provincial Government announced unlimited deposit insurance for credit union members in the weeks following the October event," he continued.

"This was in fact discussed at the event. Credit Unions as a whole have lobbied for this change and this provided an opportunity for G&F to discuss this matter."

Mr. Shewfelt made the comments in an email to then credit union member Stephen Howard, a British Columbia Government and Service Employees' Union communications officer and New Democrat campaign worker, who had written G&F Financial Group to express his concern about the political contribution.

Asked about the matter, Mr. Shewfelt told Public Eye, "Over our history, we have at times made donations basically to the ruling party of the day where it was to the benefit of our members and credit unions to participate...But we don't enter that arena very often - only if we for some reason want to advance something for our credit union members."

But if G&F Financial wanted to bring its issues to the attention of the premier, why not just phone his office and arrange an appointment? "I think that would probably be fairly difficult for an organization of our size to do that," the vice-president replied. "We're certainly not top of mind...Although I guess that would be possible."

Mr. Shewfelt said his recollection is that the fundraiser was organized in support of Richmond-Steveston legislator John Yap and attended by between 30 and 40 individuals. The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned email.

***

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeff Shewfelt"
To: "'Stephen Howard'"
Cc: "Richard Davies"
Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 11:20 AM
Subject: RE: Message for Richard Davies

You have received a message with restricted permission.
Open this item to read its content.

***

Date: Thursday, March 26, 2009 9:03 am
Subject: Follow up regarding Message for Richard Davies
To: 'stephen howard'

Further to my message yesterday, please find enclosed the body of the message that I sent earlier in the month. I am unsure of the reason for the difficulties in opening the email but hopefully you will be able to read this.

Copy of Previous email:

Stephen,

Again, apologies for the delay in responding to your message of February 18th to Richard Davies. It did take some time to research the details of the donations and sponsorships that were
made during 2008.

As you note, there was a donation made to the Liberal Party in October. Our records indicate that there was one other payment that could be considered a donation. The other situation that we participated in was for a Mayor of a city that does considerable business with G&F. We phrase it this way because in both situations the "donation" was part of our participation in events. They weren't strictly payments for donations. These forums provided us an opportunity to bring issues that are important to our Credit Union to the attention of a governing leader. .

We do not have a policy to directly support political parties. However, there are occasions where we have to enter the political arena when it is in the best interests of G&F. We consider both of the situations in 2008 to be in this category. In both cases we participated in events with incumbents. The event for the Liberal party presented an opportunity for the CEO to meet with several credit union members, potential members and the Premier of British Columbia. While not directly attributed to the change, the Provincial Government announced unlimited deposit insurance for credit union members in the weeks following the October event. This was in fact discussed at this event. Credit Unions as a whole have lobbied for this change and this provided an opportunity for G&F to discuss this matter. As noted, the other situation involved the Mayor of a City that is a member of G&F and has deposits with our Credit Union.

We do not have a specific resolution that grants the Credit Union authority to make donations. That authority rests within the general authority of the Board.

A member can bring an ordinary resolution to the membership for consideration under Rule 8.11. A member can submit a proposed ordinary resolution to the Board of Directors for
consideration at least 45 days prior to an AGM.

Should you have any further questions, please let me know. Please note however that I will be away from the office from March 12th to March 25th.

Regards,

Jeff Shewfelt

3 Comments

So let me get this straight...the BCGEU is complaining about an organization getting involved with a political party?

Now I've heard it all.

Well, banks give money to the Liberals and Conservatives all the time, but aren't credit unions supposed to be different -- say a little more responsible to their membership, a goodly chunk of whom are no doubt not supportive of the governing party?

Shewfelt's response is polite enough and offers up a certain rationalization, but read another way isn't it basically this: "We gave them $5,000 so that we could talk to the Premier, because we didn't think we could talk to him for free." As a credit union member in Victoria, I could see having a real problem with that if Coast Capital were to say the same thing.

Max, you clearly don't understand. It's OK for organizations like the BCGEU, the BCFT, the HEW, etc., to support a political party but only if it's the NDP.

Anything else is forbidden. How long have you lived in BC?

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