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Hodge: Questions arise about some of the disclosed expenses

The financial disclosures of Kelowna city council candidates from the Nov. 19 civic election were released Monday—and the figures caused a few sets of eyeballs to roll.

When I was defeated (along with four other incumbent councillors and the mayor) some four months ago, I admit to being somewhat taken back by the results.

So I decided to wait until after the release of the financial figures before I would comment any further. Well, the numbers are out.

Going forward, I hope to share some of my thoughts on the thinking behind a number of issues during my past three years on council, such as the infamous CD-21, the logo, the downtown plan, Cedar Avenue Park, FourChange and why I think the last election was the dirtiest one ever in Kelowna. I might even write about the “chicken bylaw.”

However, for today it’s about election costs.

In the mayoralty race, Walter Gray raised $57,490 (including $13,600 of his own money) and spent $56,920, while incumbent Sharon Shepherd raised $29,801 (including $14,161 of her own funds) and spent $29,729. One of the other two mayoral candidates, Ken Chung, spent just $628 and raised only $198.

At the end of the election night, Walter edged Sharon by just over 400 votes.

Gray spent nearly double on his campaign but later said that such a small margin of victory was proof he had not bought the election.

I am not sure of the logic in that summation.

Gray spent $27,982 on media advertising and  $11,880 on signs, flyers, and brochures. Shepherd doled out some $19,000 on media advertising and $4,926 on signage.

Gray’s campaign contributors included $5,000 from Sunlogics Inc., and $2,500 from Vancouver company BFL Canada. Walter also received $1,000 from Castanet owner Nick Frost, who was also a leader of the FourChange.org.

Interestingly enough, Frost adamantly stated FourChange was “neutral” on the issue of the mayor’s race and was irritated when asked if FourChange wanted Shepherd replaced by Gray.

The councillor race saw successful candidates spend as follows: Colin Basran spent the most at $14,302 followed by Maxine DeHart,  $12,348; Mohini Singh,  $10,698; Gerry Zimmermann, $8,783; Gail Given, $7,536; Andre Blanleil $4,347; and Luke Stack, $2,891.

Defeated former councillors in general spent much less. Graeme James spent the most at $9,522, followed by myself at $3,498, Kevin Craig at $2,235 and Michele Rule at $1,569. Angela Reid-Nagy had not filed her expenses when I checked the forms.

Among the other unsuccessful candidates, Shane Herrington took the loss on the chin to the tune of $19,591.

Another tidbit for thought: Gray and several other candidates, including myself, were mailed a $200 donation from the Aquillini Group. They are the folks who want to build a 24-storey tower on Bernard Avenue.

A further more detailed study would reveal who actually accepted the Aquillini dollars—I did not.

After all the candidates’ numbers are bantered and bashed there is the one factor that interests me the most—the dollars spent by Four Change.org.

FourChange claims to have spent $30,766 in expenses to promote successful candidates Zimmermann, Basran, and Given along with unsuccessful candidate Carol Gran. That total had some political candidates’ eyeballs rolling when it was previously announced because, in their view, it seemed low.

According to the financial disclosure form, the group spent $20,923 on radio, TV, newspaper and web advertising, and another $9,415 on signs, flyers and pamphlets.

As a comparison, my $3,500 got me diddlysquat in the way of signs, flyers or buttons. The only advertising I bought was in SNAP Magazine and Beyond 50. The costs for the other media—radio, TV, newspaper, Castanet, etc.—was much more than my budget could afford.

How FourChange managed to bombard the airways and other media genre with advertising at that $20,923 figure is very intriguing.

Especially when one considers the campaign costs of some candidates and the advertising they received for their dollar.

I received a glossy, two-sided, colour bookmark size advertisement from FourChange in the mail promoting their four favoured councillors.

Apparently it was mailed to most homes within the city. I guess that was a heck of a lot cheaper an expense than I imagined.

Those precise numbers, however (as with any candidates), are not required on the disclosure form. Anyone wanting specific numbers clarifying expenses have to ask the candidate (or in this case, the organization) for those figures.

If that request is refused, then one must dispute the matter through the province since it is not the city’s jurisdiction.

I will not be surprised if at least one person asks for that information.

Stay tuned as this issue may not be over yet.

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