September 23, 2018 4:05 pm
Updated: September 25, 2018 12:26 am

Developer-funded billboards raise eyebrows in Vancouver mayoral race

WATCH: Criticism over a loophole in the rules that govern civic campaign financing in Vancouver grows.

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Vancouver mayoral candidate Hector Bremner says he had no part in creating a series of billboards that appeared across Vancouver in the month before the city’s election campaign kicked off.

The billboards, promoting Bremner’s upstart YES Vancouver party, appeared in multiple locations across the city during the period before restrictive new advertising limits kicked in.

The Globe and Mail has reported that the ads were paid for using $85,000 given to lawyer David Gruber by his client, Vancouver developer Peter Wall.

READ MORE: New B.C. municipal election finance rules haven’t stopped big ad spending

When contacted for comment, Gruber referred Global News’ questions on the matter to Wall, however Global News was unable to reach the developer for comment.

WATCH: Vancouver mayor candidate billboard controversy


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Asked whether he or his campaign had any contact with Wall, Bremner said “not to my knowledge.”

“They were free to do that; we obviously weren’t allowed to collaborate,” said Bremner.

“Had we collaborated, I wouldn’t have said do billboards. I’m a communications professional; I wouldn’t have said, ‘Go do billboards.’ But I really appreciate that he believed enough in us to do that,” he added.

Bremner said he also does not know who took the photo used in the ads.

“I think this is shaping up to be probably the biggest story of the election campaign so far,” said Vancouver Courier columnist Mike Klassen.

READ MORE: Spending limits kick in as British Columbia civic elections officially kick off

Klassen said the billboards show how attempts to reign in the influence of big money in politics have fallen short, and the signs appear to have put Bremner in an awkward position.

“It stretches credulity, I guess, at the idea that there would be all this high-resolution, camera-ready artwork just lying around for somebody to launch a billboard advertising campaign,” he said.

WATCH: Critics point to loophole in new B.C. election finance laws

A source with knowledge of how the ad was made told Global News Bremner’s photo was found through a Google search, scraped off the internet and then massaged by a graphic artist to make it billboard-quality, although he wouldn’t say who did the work.

Bremner said that, while he appreciates the effort on his behalf, if elected his administration would not focus on the interests of the development industry.

“Our plan is to end the relationship between developers and council. I am the only person that does that; our plan unequivocally ends that,” he said.

READ MORE: Live B.C. election results 2018: Find your riding and candidates

On Saturday, when campaign spending limits kicked in, the Vancouver billboards appeared to have all been removed.

Under the campaign rules, any third-party advertisers must now be registered with Elections BC and attach their names to ads they have funded.

Advertisers are also limited to a maximum expenditure of $10,508.73 in support of an individual Vancouver candidate.

On Monday, Bremner’s campaign stood by its denial of any prior knowledge of Wall’s campaign.

One lingering question is how Bremner’s photo passed muster with the billboard company itself.

In B.C., outdoor advertisers tell Global News they want clients to have clear permission that they can use an image. Pattison Outdoor has not responded to a request for comment.

 

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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