On Political Donations

It was reported last week that I made a significant donation to Mike Nickel’s mayoral campaign; this is indeed true. Early this year, Mike Nickel approached me to donate to his upcoming mayoral campaign. He was the city councillor presiding over the ward where my business is located and I went to him multiple times for help while building the Ritchie Market (the home of Biera and Blind Enthusiasm). Every time I asked for help he came through and helped to fix the issues I was having with the city. As he had helped me in the past I agreed to help him and made the donation before the election campaign really started. I made my donation to his campaign in April 2021.

As someone that doesn’t follow local politics I didn’t understand the implications of this. I should have done my research and made a more informed decision. As I’ve seen the campaigns unfold this past year, I noted that his campaign was inconsistent with my personal values and realized that my support would be perceived as inconsistent with who you believe me to be. This was a mistake I had a chance to fix, but did not. (I saw behaviour I didn’t agree with and didn’t call it out.) I can’t change either of those mistakes but I can provide a more complete picture of who I am as that seems to have been called into question in recent social media posts. 

I strive to be open, welcoming, kind, approachable, fair, humble and to treat everyone equally. I also believe in helping others when I’m in a position to do so. I’m not politically aligned with any party and have only ever made a small number of political donations in my life (more on those below). In this civic election cycle, in addition to Mike Nickel, I’ve made substantial donations to the campaigns to elect: 

Rhiannon Hoyle (ward ipiihkoohkaniplaohtsi), Kirsten Goa (ward papastew), Keren Tang (ward karhiio) and James Cameron (ward papastew) 

In the past I’ve supported the campaign to elect Don Iveson. During the prior Ward 11 election I also donated to campaigns to elect Mike Nickel and his competitor, Keren Tang.  

In the recent federal election I made a substantial donation to the campaign to elect Blake Desjarlais. I’m extremely happy he was elected and I am very proud to have him representing Edmonton as an MP. 

The only other political donations I have made are to campaigns to elect Rachael Notley. 

For me, these are private actions. I make choices to support people on a variety of criteria and don’t really promote what I do. This current situation has forced me to publicly open up a little bit, which is against my nature. When I stepped away from BioWare almost a decade ago part of my motivation was to get off the social media treadmill. Life is short; I’d prefer not to spend it Tweeting.

One of the things that’s been drilled into me from this current situation is that actions speak louder than words. People have made assumptions about who I am, my affiliations, and what I’m like based on one data point. I’d like to provide additional data points to consider. 

I’ve made the personal (and relatively private) choice to donate a very significant amount of money on a yearly basis. I’m in the position to help our local community, so I choose to do so. One thing to remember is I’m the sole owner of Biera and Blind Enthusiasm and when those organizations are making donations I’m basically the one doing it. And, before you suggest all I’m doing is offsetting our massive profits ask someone in hospitality about the tight/non-existent margins in the space. There are no profits to be offset, especially during Covid. 

In the last 12 months we’ve made donations to: Native Counselling Services of Alberta, Jerry Forbes Center, Edmonton Epilepsy, Humane Animal Rescue Team, Basically Babies, Camp fYrefly, Varscona Theater, Harcourt House, Leftovers, Make a Wish, Sexual Assault Center of Edmonton, Shakespeare in the Park, Elantis (for Colon Cancer Research), Change for Children, The Today Center, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, Companion Animal Welfare Society, WINhouse, Africa Center, Center for Autism Services of Alberta, Operation Friendship Seniors Society, Rainbow Society, Zoe’s Animal Rescue, Kids Kottage, CASA, Mealshare, Edmonton Food Bank, Mental Health Foundation, Lead with Seeds, and Youth Empowerment and Support Services. 

I also have a substantial, multi-year personal endowment at the Edmonton Public Library. 

These actions reflect who I am. It you want to judge me, I think it would be fair to judge the entire picture.

The other thing I learned is that I can’t passively participate (e.g. in a political donation) and then not take action when my values are no longer in synch with the person or thing I’m supporting. I let that happen and didn’t take action. I have no excuse for this. In the future I’ll do better research, follow things more closely, be “all-in” on whatever I’m supporting, and act when I see bad behaviour. I know I’ve let many of you down and apologize for that. I’ll strive to do better in the future.