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Big money, big game: Trophy hunter donation under fire

A Facebook photograph shows a $60,000 cheque from an American big game hunting group to "prevent the NDP getting elected and ending the hunt"

A grizzly bear fishes along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C. Friday, Sept 10, 2010.

Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

A grizzly bear fishes along a river in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park near Bella Coola, B.C. Friday, Sept 10, 2010.

A Facebook photograph showing an American big game hunting group offering a $60,000 novelty cheque is just more evidence that in B.C. politics, money talks, says NDP MLA George Heyman.

“It’s one more example that Christy Clark’s campaign, whether directly or indirectly, is funded by big money — in this case by foreign donors who are willing to buy and pay for the continued trophy hunt of grizzly bears,” said Heyman, who represents the riding of Vancouver-Fairview.

The photo came to the attention of Kai Nagata, communications director of the Dogwood Initiative. The caption on the photo, posted by Safari Club International’s Canada chapter, reads: the “NDP have vowed to end the grizzly hunt in B.C. if elected. SFI chapters from Canada and the U.S. banded together, donating $60,000. Together working with the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. to prevent the NDP getting elected and ending the hunt.”

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The photo has since been removed, but Nagata provided a screenshot to Metro.

A screenshot of a photo showing a $60,000 donation from an American big game hunting organization the caption says was to prevent the NDP from getting elected and putting a stop to B.C.'s trophy grizzly hunt

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A screenshot of a photo showing a $60,000 donation from an American big game hunting organization the caption says was to prevent the NDP from getting elected and putting a stop to B.C.'s trophy grizzly hunt

Following their election in 2001, the BC Liberals reinstated the province’s grizzly bear hunt, which the BC NDP had stopped. Citing polls that show wide public support to end the hunt, the NDP have promised to end the grizzly bear trophy hunt if elected in May. The party says it would allow grizzly bear hunting for food.

Dogwood is a non-profit that lobbies on environmental issues. Nagata explained the photo had come to his attention from B.C. hunters he knows who hunt for food.

“This is really uncomfortable and upsetting for 95 per cent of the food hunters in B.C. because this is the kind of stuff that gives hunting and conservation a bad name,” Nagata said. “There are lots of B.C. resident hunters who go out and harvest animals to feed their family who are really put off at what the international trophy hunting lobby is doing.”

Under B.C.’s current political donation rules, it’s perfectly legal for organizations, companies and unions to donate unlimited amounts to political parties. Foreign entities are also allowed to donate. B.C. has much laxer donation rules than many other jurisdictions and the anything-goes system has increasingly come under fire as the provincial election nears.

Earlier this month, the RCMP opened an investigation into allegations that some lobbyists had been reimbursed for personal donations by clients they represented — a practice that is against the law.

“If you total it up, it’s significant money given that there’s nobody donating from the opposite side to try to balance it out,” Nagata said of political donations from the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. and its members.

“You have a fairly well-organized trophy hunting lobby that has always had money to attend fundraisers and golf tournaments and donate to political parties. It just wasn’t clear to me where all that money was coming from and this is a clue.”

The Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

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