Developers court civic candidates in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge

Pitt council hopefuls offered campaign contributions

Councillors Doug Bing and John Becker asked Smart!Centres for permission to put election signs on their Lougheed Hwy. property.

Developers and the companies that build homes and malls in Pitt Meadows are eager to contribute to the campaigns council candidates.

This week, the city, along with Maple Ridge, ranked second as the best place in British Columbia to invest in for the third straight year.

Bruce Bell, seeking a second term on Pitt council, has received calls offering to help fund his campaign from three different developers.

“I have been offered money from developers this time and I’ve turned it all down,” said Bell, adding when he first ran in 2008, only one developer approached him.

Bell doesn’t need their cash because he’s been saving up for his campaign and estimates it will cost him $2,500.

“I planned ahead,” he said.

“It’s a personal thing. You have to be comfortable with what you are doing. It keeps you clean. You should not only be above board, but appear to be above board.”

Although none revealed who the developers are, other incumbents are also fielding similar calls.

Gwen O’Connell has been approached by developers, but has not decided whether to accept their contributions.

Mayoral candidate Deb Walters was concerned when developers started phoning her, but won’t discuss the issue further until after the election.

“They are ramping up this time and it’s totally different feeling, as well.”

Coun. John Becker, who is also vying for the mayor’s position, feels strongly about the notion of candidates accepting developer contributions.

“I am hearing that people are concerned about individuals accepting campaign contributions from developers because of the obvious perception of a conflict of interest. For this reason, I have not accepted campaign contributions offered from developers,” he said. “The people deserve to know who is taking developer’s money in this election. This issue of land development in Pitt Meadows is something we need to consider carefully, and with a healthy dose of caution. The issue is so important that before the election, candidates should disclose if they are accepting money from developers.”

And it isn’t just incumbents who are being courted by big money.

Mike Stark, running as a candidate for the first time, was surprised to receive a call from one developer, offering to contribute to his campaign. Stark thought of himself as a “nobody.”

He did not accept the offer.

“When a developer or anyone comes before city council to put forward a development or project, I want to be able to judge that project on its merit,” Stark added.

SmartCentres, a mall developer whose clients include Walmart, is allowing candidates to put up signs on the property it owns along Lougheed Highway, just past the Meadows Gardens Golf Club.

Spokesperson Sandra Kaiser said SmartCentres will not be making financial contributions to any municipal candidates in Pitt Meadows or Maple Ridge.

See related story:

Developers court Ridge candidates

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