BC Green House Leader Adam Olsen is accusing the provincial New Democrats of hypocrisy for participating in a $700-dollar invitation-only breakfast fundraiser featuring Housing Minister Ravi Kahlon for the yet-to-be called by-election in the riding of former premier John Horgan.
Ravi Parmar, who used to work for Kahlon as a senior ministerial advisor when Kahlon was Jobs Minister, is running for the New Democrats in Langford-Juan de Fuca. Experts consider the riding a safe NDP seat.
It is not entirely clear who is organizing the event scheduled for Wednesday (May 17) from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Four Points by Sheraton-Langford or how many people are attending.
A screenshot of an email advertising the event bears the signature of Keycorp Developments, a member of the Greater Victoria development community for more than 40 years.
The event bills itself as a “special event” with Kahlon and promises that attendees would “hear first-hand about his Homes for People action plan to build more housing across the province.”
Premier David Eby and Kahlon had announced that plan in early April 2023.
“Minister Kahlon will be speaking on the government’s strategies for fast tracking the delivery of new homes, increasing the supply of middle-income housing and helping those with the greatest housing needs,” it reads. “This event is by invitation only, so come out to support Langford-Juan de Fuca candidate Ravi Parmar and join in on the discussion.”
Individuals are asked to make out a $700-cheque addressed to “BC NDP” and include Ravi Parmar Campaign on the reference line.
Olsen said this “exclusive event designed for the development community” represents exactly the type of event, about which New Democrats complained about when the BC Liberals (now BC United) used to be in power.
“From everything, we can see this is a cash-for-access exclusive event designed for developers with the minister of housing, who is responsible for making these decisions (affecting development),” Olsen said.
Politicians hold fund-raisers all the time, he said.
“But when you have these exclusive, expensive events, where you are getting access to the decision-maker, who has just put out a new plan and who is putting together legislation in the fall that is going to have an impact on the community that is invited to this, I think this is where the public should be concerned,” Olsen said.
People who are looking for affordable housing will be very challenged to find $700 to attend tomorrow’s fundraiser, he added.
Olsen said he is not suggesting that the fundraiser is breaking any rules. The message though is that the BC NDP is doing exactly the same thing for which they used to criticize the Official Opposition when they were in power.
“They were loud about it, very bold about it and now they are doing the same thing — it’s a situation of ‘do as I say, not as I do,’” he added.
Keycorp Developments President Jim Hartshorne declined comment to Black Press Media about the event and Shannon Russell, project manager for the company, directed questions about the event to the NDP.
The NDP responded with a background statement that stated cash-for-access events were prevalent under the previous BC Liberal government, often held in secret, with private corporations directly paying for all costs associated with the event and making massive donations without any accountability.
When the NDP came to power in 2017, changes to the Election Act drafted and passed with the support of the BC Greens made these events illegal, it reads.
The statement adds that regular ticketed fundraisers are completely legal and all parties use them to raise money from their supporters in pointing to an upcoming BC United fundraiser with a $1,400 ticket.
It added that a wide range of people received invitations to Wednesday’s event, including individuals from business community, and all election rules have been followed.
Kahlon and Parmar, who also serves as board chair for School District 62, are later meeting with seniors on Wednesday.
“Ravi Parmar is focused on doing the work to be the next MLA in Langford-Juan de Fuca,” it reads. “That includes meeting with constituents and hearing about their priorities, door knocking, fundraising, recruiting volunteers and taking part in community events.
“In doing so, he follows all of the rules that our BC NDP government implemented to keep corporate and union donations out of politics.”