Progress Vancouver barred from 2026 election over campaign finance violations

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Elections BC has banned longtime political organizer Mark Marissen and other Progress Vancouver candidates from running in the next round of local elections after it deregistered their party for breaking campaign finance rules.

The elections body said Tuesday that the party and six of its eight candidates in last year’s municipal vote failed to meet the filing deadline for finance reports in January this year.

The party did meet a “late filing deadline” the next month, Elections BC said, but the reports revealed an “impermissible” $50,000 loan, improperly recorded contributions, donations from outside British Columbia and contributions that exceeded legal limits.

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Marissen, who is the ex-husband of former premier Christy Clark, led the party and ran for mayor in Vancouver but finished a distant fourth with 3.4 per cent of the vote, won by Ken Sim. None of Progress Vancouver’s other candidates were elected.

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The party’s campaign finance disclosures show that the $50,000 loan came from Jason McLean, president and CEO of the McLean Group of Companies.

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He declined to comment, deferring to the party for a response.

Marissen said in a statement the party had received incorrect legal advice about how loan funds could be used and how they should be disclosed under amended election finance rules.

“Progress Vancouver became aware of the full extent of the amendments having come into effect only after it had paid bills for the purposes set out for the party,” Marissen’s statement said.

“At the time, Progress Vancouver also disclosed that there were issues with a handful of donations that came from out of province, and with some missing contributions data, and addressed those issues as best it could with the information available.”

Progress Vancouver and all eight candidates who ran under its banner are now barred until after the next round of municipal elections in 2026.

Elections BC said it told the party in March that its filings were deficient, but Progress Vancouver failed to correct them, and an investigation of its finances remains ongoing.

“Depending on the outcome of the investigation, administrative monetary penalties may apply,” Elections BC spokesperson Andrew Watson said in an interview on Tuesday.

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“The maximum fine for a prohibited contribution is up to double the amount of the prohibited contribution ? But it would be at the discretion of the chief electoral officer weighing the results of the investigation in terms of what the penalty would be.”

Morgane Oger, another Progress Vancouver candidate, said being disqualified from the next election was “unwelcome news.”

“I have to be honest, I’m confused by this,” Oger said Tuesday. “I’m a member of the party that provincially worked to bring those campaign rules in. I believe in those campaign rules and I believe in adhering to campaign finance rules.”

Oger said she was disappointed that the party’s “sloppy campaign finance conduct” resulted in deregistration. She said she joined the party to mount a left-of-centre campaign to counter those of the NPA and Ken Sim’s ABC party.

Oger said the party seemed to stumble out of the gate when fundraising didn’t seem to go as planned.

“This party had showed a great deal of potential at first,” Oger said. “I expect that what happened is the money didn’t show up.”

Elections BC said it will provide updates when the investigation is complete, but could not provide a timeline.

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