Photo by Whitehorse Star
Harlan Meade, Liz Hanson and Brad Cathers
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Harlan Meade, Liz Hanson and Brad Cathers
The Yukon Liberal Party received the single largest campaign donation in 2016 – $50,000 from the small, Vancouver-based exploration company Copper North Mining Corp.
On Monday, Elections Yukon released a list of contributions made to political parties and candidates in 2016.
Copper North’s was the largest gift to any party by tens of thousands of dollars (the second-largest donations were each worth $10,000).
Many would see this as interesting, considering that the publicly-traded company is not exactly flush with cash.
According to its fourth quarter financial statements, Copper North had a working capital deficit of more than $802,000 on Sept. 30, 2016, and had not turned a profit since its inception.
Copper North owns the Carmacks copper project, an oxide copper, gold and silver deposit 38 km northwest of the Village of Carmacks.
The company was blocked from developing the site more than five years ago, after the Yukon Water Board rejected its water licence application. There were concerns from First Nations and others that the project could contaminate the Yukon River and its salmon population.
Since then, the company has reworked its approach to managing the mining operation as well as increasing exploration efforts to expand the value of the deposit.
Company president and CEO Harlan Meade declined to comment this morning on his company’s sizable donation to the Liberals.
He also kept mum on the status of the Carmacks Project.
“Until we’ve fully completed our financing for this next step, we’re really not talking about it because people tend to misinterpret what’s going on,” he told the Star.
Meade added that some kind of announcement will be made in about a month’s time.
“We’re going forward; it’s been slower than we’d like, but we’re getting ready to take the next step,” he said.
NDP Leader Liz Hanson said her “jaw dropped” when she saw the Copper North gift to the Liberals.
“Anyone from anywhere can donate as much as they want to the Yukon political process and that leaves the government open to the appearance of undue influence from interests from outside of Yukon,” she said.
“And that’s not good for a government that ultimately has to make decisions based on the recommendations of, for example, YESAB (the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board) when it comes to a large mine.”
She called on the Liberal government to take a page from the NDP’s playbook and ban corporate, union and Outside donations.
Last year, the Yukon NDP railed against what it called “big money in politics.” It made an unsuccessful attempt to pass a private member’s bill that would put an end to such donations to political parties. It also proposed capping individual contributions at $1,500.
In 2016, however, the NDPs plushest contributions came from unions outside the Yukon.
The party received $10,000 from the Toronto-based UNIFOR union, $7,000 from the Canadian Labour Congress in Ottawa and $5,000 from United Steel Workers in Burnaby, B.C.
The New Democrats also welcomed corporate donations from companies that gave the same amount to the three major parties: $2,500 from Alkan Air Ltd., $1,500 from Whitehorse Motors Ltd. and $1,000 from Total North Communications Ltd.
Alkan Air gave an additional $999 to the Yukon Party in 2016.
Hanson’s campaign received its own donation of $1,500 from the Northern Carpenters and Allied Workers, Local 2499.
When asked about the apparent contradiction in her party’s message on political financing, Hanson said that as long as the rules are as they are, her party will “play by the rules.”
She said political contributions were “a debate within the party,” and that “it was the party that finally agreed” to accept donations from entities and Outsiders.
Hanson said her “preference has been not to take them.”
Of the four territorial parties, the NDP garnered by far the greatest number of discreet contributions, with 449 donations throughout 2016, and 181 campaign donations, most of which were from Yukon residents.
Outside and union donations to the NDP were not lost on Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers.
He recalled how Hanson hosted a fundraiser in Edmonton in April 2016, and then tabled her bill proposing to bar Outside political contributions the following month.
“We saw that as being a bit hypocritical on their part to have such an abrupt change of heart on the issue of Outside donations just after they finished their last Outside fundraiser,” said Cathers.
On the topic of Copper North’s substantial gift to the Liberals, however, Cathers was tight-lipped.
“That is certainly something we noticed. I’m not going to comment on individual sources,” he said.
The previously governing Yukon Party attracted the most corporate and Outside donors in 2016.
Major donations included $10,000 from Victoria Gold Corp, $6,800 from Yukon Wilderness Adventure, $6,000 from Shoppers Drug Mart (former premier Darrell Pasloski owned both Shoppers Drug Marts in Whitehorse before entering politics in 2011), $5,800 from Midnight Sun Drilling, and $5,400 from a numbered company.
The Yukon Party also brought in more revenue than any other party last year, raising more than $236,000.
Yukon Liberal Party president Devin Bailey said he’s not concerned about the optics of accepting an outsized donation from a mining company.
“I don’t really see how it’s any different from the NDP receiving $35,000 from the Federation of Labour in 2011, or other big union contributions, or the Yukon Party receiving contributions over the years from other mining companies,” he said early this afternoon.
“This was just one contribution that, instead of being over a number of years, they gave it all in one shot.”
It’s the job of the party’s executive to make sure the Liberals are in the strongest position possible ahead of an election, he said.
“We follow all the rules that are in place,” Bailey added.
Other large donations to the winning party include $7,500 from Vancouver’s Selwyn Chihong Mining Ltd., and $5,000 from Whitehorse law firm Cabott & Cabott, of which former Liberal campaign chair Laura Cabott is a partner.
The Liberals raised more than $233,000 in 2016.
Jocelyn Curteanu, a Liberal party candidate and current city councillor, spent more than any other nominee on her campaign. She reported expenses of a little more than $21,000.
Curteanu, who lost the riding of Copperbelt South to the Yukon Party’s Scott Kent, raised about $14,700.
Cathers spent the second most on his campaign, submitting a little under $17,800 in expenses. He raised about $7,500 and received about $10,200 from the party for his campaign.
The Yukon Green Party raised nearly $6,000 in 2016.
Yukon Premier Sandy Silver donated $1,000 to the Yukon Liberal Party in 2016 and $3,000 to his own campaign and Hanson gave nearly $1,500 to the NDP.
Pasloski did not appear to contribute any money to his party nor campaign in 2016. Names are not published on donations under $250.
Green Party Leader Frank de Jong contributed $400 to his own campaign.
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