Corporations and individuals closely linked to one of Ottawa’s largest home builders made a combined $47,850 in donations to municipal candidates in the 2014 election.
Using a campaign funding database compiled by OttWatch.ca from publicly available finance returns, StittsvilleCentral.ca found the following donors with connections to Richcraft:
- Richcraft Homes Ltd at 2280 St. Laurent Blvd (Suite 201) made a total of $4,500 in donations to 15 candidates.
- RC Realty Management Ltd. at 2280 St. Laurent Blvd (Unit 107) donated $4,250 to 13 candidates.
- Total: $8,750
- $11,700 in donations were made by either Kris, Manju, Angela, or Monica Singhal. Kris is the founder and president of Richcraft and he’s married to Manju. Angela and Monica are his daughters and work for the company.
- Kevin Yemm, Richcraft’s Vice President of Land Development, donated $4,500. He’s married to Monica Singhal.
- Carol and Robert Clement donated a combined $4,250. Robert is listed on LinkedIn as Richcraft’s V.P. of Construction.
- Steve and Junie Grandmont (sometimes listed as June or Julie in financial returns) donated a combined $8,900. Steve is Chief Operating Officer at Richcraft Homes.
- Phil Castro, a development planner with Richcraft, donated $2,500 to candidates.
- Jeff Smith, who’s married to Angela Singhal, donated $2,750.
- Shane Paulin was a leasing and property manager for Richcraft at the time of the election, but no longer works for the company. He donated $4,500 to municipal campaigns.
- Total: $39,100
All of these contributions appear to be within the rules of the Ontario Municipal Elections Act:
- “A contributor shall not make contributions exceeding a total of $750 to any one candidate in an election.”
- “A contributor shall not make contributions exceeding a total of $5,000 to two or more candidates for office on the same council or local board.”
- “For the purposes of sections 66 to 82, corporations that are associated with one another under section 256 of the Income Tax Act (Canada) shall be deemed to be a single corporation.”
None of the individuals or corporations listed above exceeded the $750 or $5,000 limit. We’ve been unable to determine the corporate relationship between Richcraft and RC Realty.
We attempted to reach the people listed above for comment.
“In the 2014 election, Richcraft supported nearly 80% of the candidates. Richcraft is grateful to have the opportunity to support and encourage strong candidates to form our City Council. We do not take lightly the corporate responsibility of promoting a City Council that is knowledgeable of both community and business interests. Richcraft is committed to ‘investing in’ and ‘building up’ our great city. We encourage all citizens to be involved at the municipal level, as it is the level has the greatest impact on our day-to-day lives,” wrote Kevin Yemm, Vice President of Land Development with Richcraft, in an email response.
“There was no rhyme or reason to be honest with you. In working with my former company we got to deal with a lot of them, and I just believed in their campaigns,” said Shane Paulin, who no longer works for Richcraft.
Paulin says he met some of the candidates at events, but did not know them personally. He also says that Richcraft did not ask or encourage employees to make donations to municipal campaigns.
Richcraft isn’t the only developer with executives who make personal donations in addition to corporate donations. For example, Claridge Vice President Shawn Malhotra is listed as making a personal contribution of $750 to Mayor Jim Watson’s campaign, while Claridge Homes made a $750 corporate donation. The Ottawa Citizen just published an article about corporations making multiple donations from associated companies.
Former city councillor Alex Cullen published an analysis of 2010 election contributions outlining several cases where senior employees from development companies made personal contributions in addition to their company’s corporate donations.
The biggest recipients of contributions from Richcraft and related individuals included:
- Mayor Jim Watson, $7,250 in donations
- Marianne Wilkinson, $3,000
- Diane Deans, $2,500
- Jan Harder, $2,500
- Allan Hubley, $2,500
- Scott Moffatt, $2,500
- Bob Monette, $2,500
- Mark Taylor, $2,500
- Tim Tierney, $2,500
- Stephen Blais, $2,250
- Eli El-Chantiry, $2,000
(Stittsville Councillor Shad Qadri also received $2,000 in personal donations from individuals linked to Richcraft, but no corporate donations. He says he returned cheques from developers totalling $5,100, but would not identify which ones.)
Dave Lee ran for council in Stittsville last fall. In a recent post on Facebook, he suggested that companies that do business with the City, including people who work for them, should not be allowed to contribute to municipal campaigns.
“Huge conflict of interest. The city of Toronto got this right and voted unanimously to ban corporate/union donations. There is really no good argument for allowing this kind of influence peddling,” wrote Lee.
We asked several councillors and Mayor Jim Watson to comment on whether developers, or people who work for developers, should be allowed to make campaign contributions.
“All contributions were reviewed by our CFO and Auditor during the audit process. It would be problematic to create two classes of businesses. Any resident or business may take an interest in City decisions such as parking, licensing, zoning and taxation. All taxpayers should be treated in the same manner and should not be prohibited from participating in the democratic process,” said Brook Simpson, press secretary for Watson.
“All contributions met provincial legal requirements. I do not ever consider donations when making decisions as a Councillor,” wrote Kanata North councillor Marianne Wilkinson in an email.
Jeff Leiper, city councillor for Kitchissippi, says that he doubts a ban on donations from people who work for developers could be enforced.
“Banning corporate and union donations is pretty easy. But trying to extend that to a class of individuals would be tough, and – I think – anti-democratic,” said Leiper via email. “I don’t believe, though, that that can be written into an enforceable law. Individuals, no matter what companies they own or work for, have a right to participate in elections through donations. That’s democracy. Trying to define “developer” would probably tie us into knots.”
He says his campaign vetted all donations in order to fulfill a campaign promise not to take contributions from the development industry. “I wouldn’t have taken donations from big or small builders, nor from their architects, consulting engineers, planning consultants, contractors, etc.”
Richcraft is one of Ottawa’s largest developers and their name is all over the city. In 2014, the Ottawa Business Journal listed them as Ottawa’s fourth largest home builder by number of possessions. They built Deer Run in Stittsville and are currently developing Fernbank Crossing between Hazeldean and Fernbank and other communities in Kanata as well.
The company, and the Singhal family, are active philanthropists, funding projects such as the Richcraft Homes Waiting Area at the Ottawa Hospital General Campus, and an arts endowment at Shenkman Arts Centre. Richcraft also bought the naming rights to the Richcraft Sensplex in the east end and the Richcraft Recreation Complex in Kanata North.
With additional research from Jessica Thompson.