Opinion

COLUMN: Tax dollars and politics

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Wilf Hurd has made news again, almost 15 years after he left his job as Surrey-White Rock MLA to seek a seat as a Liberal MP.

He’s made the news because, in his role as Simon Fraser University’s director of government relations, he made donations to the B.C. Liberal Party. This was revealed as donations to provincial parties were made public last week.

Hurd’s donations of $2,045 on behalf of SFU came through his attendance at several B.C. Liberal Party fundraisers. The fact that this is now being called into question shows how opinion leaders and institutions are seeking to put some distance between themselves and the struggling Liberals which, based on current opinion polls, are going to lose the next provincial election by a wide margin.

But it needs to be said that Hurd is far from the only representative of a post-secondary institution to attend B.C. Liberal fundraisers. Many representatives of many different institutions have attended them regularly, as recently as last fall.

It is quite likely that representatives of virtually all B.C. post-secondary institutions have attended B.C. Liberal fundraisers over the past 11 years. The party has been in power since 2001 and as government has had control of the post-secondary funding allocations.

In addition to that, former premier Gordon Campbell had a strong interest in this area of government. He has personal connections to UBC and his government turned a number of colleges into universities.

It also expanded the role of existing universities. SFU, for example, took over the Technical University of B.C. and turned it into the highly successful SFU Surrey campus. UBC did much the same in setting up UBC Okanagan in Kelowna.

University presidents, senior administrators and people in similar roles to Hurd’s  have had to spend quite a bit of time with government decision-makers, and in many cases that  includes MLAs and cabinet ministers.

It’s also worth pointing out that Hurd was first elected as a Liberal MLA when Gordon Wilson was leader and served for only a short time under Campbell – who was then in Opposition. He never sat on the government benches.

The first news story on the Hurd donations included a comment from a UBC spokesman that it has had a policy in place since 2007 that prevents such donations. What happened prior to 2007? There may have been plenty of donations prior to that time, which include when UBC created the Kelowna campus.

Community colleges, including Kwantlen (now Kwantlen Polytechinc University), have sent numerous representatives to such partisan events. It is important to note many active B.C. Liberals have been named to boards of post-secondary institutions as well, and there have been other connections between the party and the institutions..

Both the B.C. Liberal Party, which is returning Hurd’s donations to SFU, and Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto say tax dollars should not go towards political parties.

They are correct.

However, Hurd should not be viewed by the public as some sort of transgressor or pariah. He was doing what many others were doing – and what he was paid to do.

Frank Bucholtz is the editor of The Langley Times. He writes weekly for The Leader.

newsroom@langleytimes.com

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