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Wealthy Elites are Funding the Opposition to BC’s Electoral Reform Referendum, New Filings Show

Why are BC’s wealthy elites so worried about the province’s upcoming electoral reform referendum?

New filings released by British Columbias elections authority show the ‘No’ side in the province’s upcoming electoral reform referendum is largely funded by BC’s wealthiest elites and right-wing power brokers.

This fall, British Columbians will cast their votes on whether the province should stick with its outdated first-past-the-post electoral system or join other countries around the world, such as GermanyNew Zealand and Norway, who have relied on a proportional voting system without any problems for decades.

According to newly published financial disclosures by Elections BC, it turns out the people who most want to stick with the status quo are BCs rich and powerful “entrenched interests.”

For the referendum campaign, Elections BC announced the government has allocated $500,000 to both the pro-reform and anti-reform campaigns, and will allow an additional $200,000 in advertising funds for each side to come from third parties.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the big spenders who each donated more than $1,000 to the ‘No’ campaign – as well as some of their ludicrous views and shady dealings:

Christy Clarks Attorney General Suzanne Anton

Suzanne Anton, the former Attorney General under Christy Clarks BC Liberal government, is the founder and director of the No Proportional Representation Society of BC, the official group representing the No side.

Anton recently tweeted an absurd theory suggesting “proportional representation” is part of a conspiracy aimed at the “disruption of Canadian economic activity.”

Except that theory doesnt make much sense: an acclaimed 2011 study found proportional voting systems produced “astonishingly robust” and “quite substantial” increases in economic growth.

Moreover, a 2015 study concludes a mixed-member proportional voting system “enhances both political and government stability stimulating a relatively high growth rate.”

Finally, a 2014 study found that countries without proportional representation systems have an average of 65.7 per cent higher national debts than countries using proportional representation.

Mining tycoon Ross Beaty

Ross Beaty, a wealthy mining tycoon whose company was accused of scavenging off Iceland’s economic collapse after the firm bought up assets from a failing local hydro company, is also helping bankroll the No campaign.

Beaty donated nearly $90,000 to the BC Liberals between 2010 and 2017, including a $5,000 donation to BC Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson’s leadership campaign.

Ironically, Beaty’s preferred BC Liberal leadership candidate would have lost the contest under the first-past-the-post system that he is now paying to support.

Venture capitalist Rob Hartvikson

Rob Hartvikson is a wealthy venture capitalist who got rich from heavily discounted stocks in the gold and diamond industries during the 1990s.

Hartvikson subsequently became tangled up in a conflict of interest scandal. In 2000, a commission found that Hartvikson and Blayne Johnson, a fellow Vancouver stockbroker, withheld information from their clients and made off with more than $5 million.

Hartvikson subsequently fled to Ireland in 2001 to avoid public attention.

Future Shop billionaire Hassan Khosrowshahi

Hassan Khosrowshahi, a Vancouver-based billionaire and founder of Future Shop, is a major BC Liberal donor and serves as a director for the right-wing Fraser Institute.

In 2015, Clark’s BC Liberal government sold Khosrowshahi 14 parcels of land in Coquitlam for a staggering $43 million below its appraised value. At the time, the NDP accused the BC Liberals of discounting the land as a personal favour to Khosrowshahi, whose company had donated nearly $1 million to the Liberals.

Corporate lobbist Jess Ketchum

Jess Ketchum is president of Ketchum Communications, a lobbying firm whose clients have included the Council of Forest Industries and the British Columbia Lumber Trade Council

Prior to becoming a lobbyist, Ketchum was a well-known political operative and campaign manager for the right-wing BC Social Credit Party. He later worked as a BC Liberal advisor.

Who else?

Other donors listed in the initial disclosure include:

Peter Armstrong, former president of the Non Partisan Association, a right-wing municipal political party in Vancouver

George Affleck, an entrepreneur and NPA councillor

• Reid Carter, an asset manager and director of West Fraser Timber

Mohan Jawl, a major developer in Victoria

• Peter Gustavson, CEO of Gustavson Capital Corp who sold his previous company for $370 million USD

• James Sutcliffe, a banking and financial services lawyer.

These donors arent the only ones bankrolling efforts to stop electoral reform.

Earlier this year, lumber magnate and long time BC Liberal donor Jim Shepherd was outed as the person behind a well-funded astroturf group that was bombarding British Columbians with attack ads and robocalls in advance of the official referendum campaign.


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