Woodfibre LNG, the bad and the ugly

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The Woodfibre LNG terminal near Squamish figured prominently in the recent Globe and Mail investigation into B.C.’s political party fundraising rules, or lack thereof.

The report by Kathy Tomlinson (“British Columbia: The ‘wild west’ of fundraising,” March 3) describes the B.C. Liberals’ donation haul last year as “astonishing” at $12 million, then goes on to spell out how lobbyists have been breaking one of the province’s few rules by giving tens of thousands of dollars in their own name. And some of them are doing it so frequently, it’s like they’re paying on an instalment plan.

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“One lobbyist,” Tomlinson wrote, “said there is ‘no limit’ to the calls and emails from the Liberals – and also from the New Democrats – asking for money, and it feels ‘extortionist.’ A consultant called it ‘like a shakedown,’ particularly near election time.”

One of the frequent donors is Byng Giraud, described in the article as “the top in-house lobbyist for Woodfibre LNG.” In the past three years, Giraud has donated to the B.C. Liberals 20 times, paying out a whopping total of $47,149. A less senior Woodfibre LNG manager named Marian Ngo gave 14 times, most if it last year, for a total contribution of $28,000. “The pair’s combined contributions exceeded the $69,500 that Woodfibre has donated under its companies’ names.”

So let’s do the math: $47,149 + $28,000 + $69,500 = $144,649.

“A tidy sum,” to quote Lee Van Cleef in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. And the 649 at the end is a nice touch. Tuco would be delighted, Blondie mildly amused.

The Globe and Mail report can’t help but point out that during the time all this Woodfibre LNG money was flowing into the Liberal war chest, the B.C. government was conducting its environmental assessment of the project, ultimately approving it, and sweetened the pot for the Indonesian company in a number of other ways. One of those was offering the very favourable “eDrive rate” for electricity, which critics say is a subsidy worth $34 million a year.

After the report came out, Elections BC announced it was investigating indirect donations that may have contravened the Election Act, and the probe will not be limited to the Liberals. The NDP, which reportedly took in $6.2 million last year from individuals, corporations and organized labour, has not voluntarily disclosed its 2016 donors but, like the Liberals, is reviewing its records and promising to return any donations that violated campaign finance regulations.

In his interview with Tomlinson, Byng Giraud makes no effort to hide the fact that he expensed his contributions and was reimbursed, calling it a common practice.

“If I have done something wrong, I will fix it,” he said, admitting the optics aren’t good and that the system “should probably be improved.”

Amazingly, Woodfibre LNG is practically a victim here.

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