July 26, 2016 11:24 am
Updated: July 27, 2016 1:46 pm

Company involved in Birch Cove Lakes development made donations to sitting politicians

WATCH ABOVE: Mayor Mike Savage and four sitting councillors accepted donations from a company with direct ties to the potential Birch Cove Lakes developer. Global's Marieke Walsh asks the Halifax politicians if they are in a conflict of interest.

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Mayor Mike Savage and four sitting councillors accepted donations from a company with direct ties to the potential Birch Cove Lakes developer, documents show.

The $5,500 in donations, made by Hawthorne Capital Inc. in the 2012 election, do not break any campaign donation rules.

Hawthorne Capital is directly connected to the Annapolis Group which is in negotiations with the city to develop land that the city planned to turn into a regional park.

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The documents show Savage accepted $2,500 from Hawthorne Capital Inc. Additionally, councillors Matt Whitman and Reg Rankin each accepted $1,000 and councillors Linda Mosher and Barry Dalrymple each accepted $500.

Global News reached out to all of the politicians who received donations. All of them have denied a conflict of interest.

“I make decisions on the basis of public interest not on the basis of who gave me or any other councillor money,” Savage said.

The area under dispute falls inside Rankin’s district: Timberlea – Beechville – Clayton Park – Wedgewood. It is adjacent to Whitman’s district: Hammonds Plains – St. Margarets.

READ MORE: Province will amend Halifax’s charter to allow for election finance rules

Rankin denies having a conflict of interest or having gained financially, even though the money went towards his 2012 election campaign.

“I think conflict of interest goes to financial interest,” he said.

In an emailed statement, Mosher said she is not “influenced by any donations,” and doesn’t know anything about the company. Whitman said if he did accept donations from Hawthorne Capital, “it’s unrelated.”

Dalrymple said the donation doesn’t colour his decision making on the park. “I intend to base my decision ‎on how much land we/the Park needs and how much it costs taxpayers,” he said in an emailed statement.

Donations are a perceived conflict of interest: Professor

Even without an actual conflict of interest, Dalhousie University sociology professor Howard Ramos says the donations raise questions about whether the politicians are “truly independent.”

“It’s a perception of conflict,” Ramos said.

“I think that in this situation where there is a community that’s already concerned, this certainly doesn’t give them any peace of mind.”

Neither the Annapolis Group nor Hawthorne Capital responded to request for comment.

Nova Scotia’s municipal election rules don’t limit who can donate to campaigns or how much can be donated, but the rules do require campaign disclosures to be made within 60 days of the election. In April, the province gave Halifax the go-ahead to draft stricter election finance rules, however any new rules will not be in place before the 2016 municipal election.

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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