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Riches beyond any party's wildest dreams

Liberal Leader Christy Clark wears safety glasses during a campaign stop at CedarLine Industries, a manufacturer of western red cedar products, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday April 24, 2017. Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press.

Earlier this month the 2016 donation numbers for B.C.'s political parties were filed with Elections B.C. and, not unexpectedly, it was another bumper crop for the B.C. Liberals.

The party raised $13.1 million, more than any other provincial party in Canada and $4.8 million more than the federal NDP and Green party combined.

The B.C. NDP raised $6.2 million – $791,469 more than its federal counterpart – and the B.C. Green party came in at $754,988.

Drill down into those numbers and there's another story that goes far beyond the obscene sums of money floating about B.C. politics.

First, a number from Alberta for context.

From 2005 to 2016, the Progressive Conservative party – in power from 2005 to 2015 – raised $32.7 million, all in.

Meanwhile in the same period, the Liberal party reported 86,718 donations for $250 or more totalling $118.3 million and the NDP $46.9 million (335,306 donations).

Riches beyond the wildest dreams of most parties in Canada, but in the case of the Liberal party riches that come from a small number of donors.

Combing through more than $106 million in donations (2005 to 2015), assigning each to its unique donor and it quickly becomes apparent that the party's financial support is deep, but not wide.

Imagine the party's haul like a giant jigsaw puzzle that promises tens of thousands of pieces until you open the box and find only a few hundred are required to complete the picture.

First, sort the pieces.

On the personal donation side, there's the dreaded middle initial. Search John Doe in Elections B.C.'s database and donations as John R. Doe won't appear. Search John R. Doe and those of John R Doe (with no period after the initial) won't show up.

In the case of one donor it means potentially missing $53,460 in donations on top of his $13,400 as John Doe.

Check initials, typos and various forms of a name and more than one out of every four dollars the Liberal party has raised in personal donations ($29 million) comes from just 100 individuals.

After separating out the personal donations, more than 3,000 unique corporate donors have given in excess of $72 million.

What's a unique donor? The ultimate entity that holds the wallet.

Safe bet that Bell Canada and Bell Mobility are related, not so with Centreville Construction, Crestmark Development and Concord Pacific, and even less so with CNR (ECHO) Resources, Ensign Opsco Energy Industries and Mount Polley Mining.

There are the alphabet donors to sort and assign, such as: S&E Services LLP (Stikeman & Elliott), ES (BC) LP (Just Energy) and J&J Shared Services (Johnson & Johnson).

Breweries are imaginative.

Sleeman Breweries has donated $17,946, Molson ($129,257) and Labatt ($163,366). Turning Point Brewery, owned by Labatt, has donated $336 and Brewers' Distributor (owned by Molson and Labatt) has given $24,135.

Ontario's Beer Store – owned by Sleeman, Molson and Labatt – gave $117,678.

Knock off the companies that gave less than $25,000 and 481 donors contributed $59 million (82 per cent of the $72 million tally), 285 gave $50,000 or more for $52.4 million (73 per cent), and 171 donors – the capacity of a Boeing 737 – contributed $45 million (62 per cent).

The 171 used more than 700 companies to make donations.

One out of every five corporate dollars the party raises comes from just 30 unique donors ($24.2 million).

The 10 most generous ($13.4 million) have contributed more than all the unions in the world did to the NDP ($13.2 million).

Fifty donors contributed more than the Alberta Progressive Conservatives raised altogether.

So who makes up the exclusive Top 50 club? Nineteen are property developers ($13.7 million), three are in mining ($4.2 million), six are in the forestry industry ($3.5 million), three in oil and gas ($2.4 million) and four are in construction ($1.5 million).

What was it again that Martyn Brown, former premier Gordon Campbell's chief of staff, was saying to Vaughn Palmer last year?

Oh, right: “the housing industry, construction industry, real estate, the liquor industry, energy industry, certainly the mining industry, big forest industry — all gave exceptional amounts of money, and they got exceptional attention."

The exceptional attention is a story for another day.

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