A rush of large donations to the B.C. Liberal party from a cross section of Canadian business — banks, developers, law firms, energy and tourism companies — suggests it’s stuffing the party’s war chest before an NDP/Green coalition takes control of the province.

The NDP and the Greens made a deal to seize power from the Liberals that involves quickly passing legislation to eliminate corporate and union donations to political parties, place limits on individual donations and boost restrictions and penalties on lobbyists.

But the cash rush could also indicate businesses with operations in the province want to ensure the Liberals are well funded to fight another day in case the coalition fails and a new election is called.

The May 9 vote left the Liberals with 43 seats, one shy of a majority. The NDP, which won 41, and the Greens, with three, are joining forces to form a slim 44-seat majority.

The BC Liberals’ web site shows large corporate cheques came in during the weeks just before and after the vote, then tapered off at the end of the month.

In total during the first three weeks of May, the party collected some $3 million in both corporate and individual donations. That compares with $4.5 million in individual donations and $8 million in corporate donations in all of 2016, according to the party’s web site.

There are no restrictions on political fundraising in the province, but the Liberals voluntarily disclose their donations online within 10 business days following each deposit, while the other parties don’t.

Some of the biggest donors were real estate companies like Anthem Properties Group, Bosa Development Corp., Concord Pacific Developments Corp., Maple Ridge Plaza Properties Ltd. and Reliance Properties.

Big banks like CIBC and TD, law firms like Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, and numbered companies did their part, as did energy companies like Encana Corp., Chevron Corp., and Woodfibre LNG, which wants to build the province’s first LNG export facility.

Canada’s major railways, Canadian Pacific Railway Co. and Canadian National Railway Co. Ltd., stepped up, along with large tourism-related businesses: Resorts of the Canadian Rockies Inc., Sandman Hotels Inns & Suites Ltd., Great Canadian Railtour Co. Ltd., Harbour Air Ltd. and Joey Restaurant Group.

“It’s clear from the Liberals’ online donor disclosures that in the past month Christy Clark’s party has been doing what it does best — raising money,” wrote Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham.

Greg D’Avignon, president and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia, didn’t know why so many businesses were writing big cheques to the Liberals last month.

People want to invest in the province and want to get a return and want to create jobs, and in the absence of facts and clarity it’s very difficult to do that

But he noted his membership is worried about the many layers of uncertainty facing B.C. The province had one of North America’s strongest economies last year, with growth of 3.7 per cent, but this year isn’t looking as promising, in part because of a pullback in housing.

Uncertainties include the softwood lumber dispute with the United States, the renegotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement; the fate of the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion; talks for a trade deal with China; climate change legislation, all of which matter to the province, he said.

His group represents 260 businesses, academic institutions and organizations that employ 25 per cent of the province’s labour force.

“This election outcome just makes it more uncertain as to what the provincial government’s role and position will be,” D’Avignon said.

“People want to invest in the province and want to get a return and want to create jobs, and in the absence of facts and clarity it’s very difficult to do that. And that is why there has been negative investment intentions in the province for a period of time.”

Financial Post

ccattaneo@nationalpost.com

twitter.com/cattaneooutwest