British Columbia politicians received $5.2 million in donations from 48 fossil fuel companies and industry groups between 2008 and 2015, and the top 10 donors supplied more than three-quarters of the funds, according to research published this week by the Corporate Mapping Project (CMP).
92% of the donations, or $4.8 million, went to the ruling B.C. Liberals, and seven of the top 10 donors also appeared on a list of top 10 fossil lobbyists.
“Few people can afford to make the kinds of contributions that these companies are making, and that [creates] a serious problem for the fairness of our electoral system,” Shannon Daub, co-director of the mapping project and B.C. associate director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, told National Observer.
The report comes on the heels of the Dogwood Initiative’s query to Elections BC, asking the public agency to look into campaign donations linked to Texas-based Kinder Morgan, the company behind the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion.
The mapping project looked at donations across the industry and “analyzed data from the B.C. Lobbyist Registry to find out what kind of access to government these donations help secure,” according to the project website. “The results are, quite simply, jaw-dropping,” indicating the companies received “unrivalled access” to decision-makers in return for their financial investments: in the six years after the registry was established in 2010, 43 fossils and industry organizations registered, and the top 10 reported 19,517 lobbying contacts—a total of 14 per business day.
The lobbyists’ most frequent contacts included Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman, with 733 contacts from the top 10, followed by Premier Christy Clark (618), Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett (437), Environment Minister Mary Polak (354), and Finance Minister Mike de Jong (330). Cabinet ministers accounted for 28% of contacts by the top 10 lobbyists.
“I was definitely surprised at the sheer volume of lobbying contacts that we found,” lead author Nick Graham of the University of Victoria told DeSmog Canada. But “we were expecting to see some overlap between political donations and lobbying,” since “part of what donations help achieve is access to government.”
The project team notes that “the amount of lobbying by environmental organizations—among those most likely to oppose increased fossil fuel development—pales in comparison” to the fossils’ activity and influence. “There are only eight such organizations with active lobbying efforts, reporting a total of 1,324 contacts over the same six-year period.”
National Observer contacted all seven groups and organizations that appeared on both of the CMP’s top 10 lists. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers “said it attends events for ‘parties of all political stripes’ in the province, and that the frequency of party-hosted events often correlates with funding received by CAPP or other organizations,” writes reporter Carl Meyer. “It said the frequent engagement between industry and government is ‘not surprising’ given the size of the sector and the regulations to which it is subjected.”
The CMP tracked 201 CAPP lobbying contacts between October 2015 and August 2016 on B.C.’s Climate Leadership Plan, “which turned out not to be much of a plan at all.”
The Corporate Mapping Project is a joint initiative of CCPA, the University of Victoria, and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute.