Mayor Colin Basran says campaign donations do not influence how he and his council colleagues vote on development issues.—Image: Carli Berry/Capital News

Mayor Colin Basran says campaign donations do not influence how he and his council colleagues vote on development issues.—Image: Carli Berry/Capital News

Kelowna mayor, councillors deny donations influenced hotel vote

Colin Basran says it’s ‘ridiculous’ to think campaign donations would sway his votes on council

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran says you can’t buy his vote—or the votes of any of his council colleagues.

Basran was reacting to questions about campaign contributions made in 2014 to the five council members who voted in favour of approving a development permit for a new 33-storey hotel on the city’s lakeshore by the developer.

According to Elections B.C., Westcorp Property Management donated $1,000 each to the campaigns of Basran and Councillors Luke Stack, Mohini Singh and Brad Sieben and $500 to the campaign of Coun. Gail Given.

Last week, the five voted in favour of a second development permit for the hotel project, one that raised the height of the building seven stories from the version that was approved in 2015.

No campaign donations from Westcorp were listed for Councillors Charlie Hodge or Ryan Donn, who cast the only two opposing votes last week. (Coun. Maxine DeHart excused herself from the discussion and the vote because she has a conflict as an employee of another hotel in the city and Coun. Tracy Gray is currently out of the country.)

City staff had recommended the project should not go ahead because it didn’t fit the character of the area and some residents have been unhappy with the vote.

Letter: The Westcorp saga continues

On Monday, Basran called any contention that a campaign donation would sway his, or his council colleagues’ votes “ridiculous.” And, he added, campaign donations play no part in any of his decisions on council.

He noted development proposals by campaign contributors have also been voted down by Kelowna council members, including himself, in the past.

Sieben said while he felt is was fair game to ask the question, he, like Basran, said campaign donations play no part in his weighing issues that come before council. For him, it is a question of whether or not what is being proposed is good or bad for the city.

And, he noted, he was by far the the biggest donor to his own campaign in 2014.

The Westcorp hotel is slated for the foot of Queensway, on the site of the former Willow Inn Hotel. It will include 174 hotel rooms, 49 condominiums, a 17th floor restaurant and conference facilities and will front onto a revamped Kerry Park on the downtown lakeshore.

Given, like Basran and Sieben, said campaign donations do not influence her vote and she challenged anyone to go back and look at her voting record as well as the comments she has made about development proposals.

Given, who is also chairwoman of the Central Okanagan regional board, said with corporate and union donations being banned from municipal campaigns in B.C. starting with the next B.C. civic election in October, the issue should be put to bed once and for all.

The issue of campaign donations playing a part in how municipal council members vote on development issues once in office has also been dealt with by the courts in B.C.

The courts ruled there has to be a direct pecuniary financial interest to the person voting for there to be any conflict. Simply receiving a campaign donation during an election campaign and later voting on a proposal made by the donor is not considered a pecuniary financial interest.

Basran said he received campaign contributions from a wide array of Kelowna residents during his 2014 campaign, people from all age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, as well as the business community and social-minded groups.

“It’s ridiculous to think that for such a small amount of money you can buy my vote,” said the mayor.

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