The fourth-place finisher in last fall’s race for the Vancouver mayoralty has been disqualified from running in the 2026 local elections and his party deregistered.
Elections BC also announced Tuesday that the finances of the Mark Marissen-led Progress Vancouver are under investigation and none of the other seven candidates is eligible to seek local office until after 2026.
“Further enforcement actions may apply depending on the results of this investigation,” Elections BC said in its announcement. “Elections BC will provide an update on the outcome of this investigation once it concludes.”
Elections BC cited Progress Vancouver for multiple violations: Taking a non-permissible loan of $50,000; receiving donations without reporting the required information (missing or incomplete contributor names and addresses); prohibited campaign contributions from outside B.C.; and contributions more than the annual limit.
Marissen received 5,830 votes in a Vancouver civic election dominated by Ken Sim and his ABC Vancouver party.
Progress Vancouver raised $256,097.79 (including the loan) and spent $265,673.53, according to its month-late filing with Elections BC, for which it was fined $500.
Six of the eight Progress Vancouver candidates did not submit their campaign finance reports by the Jan. 13 deadline. The remaining filed by the Feb. 13 late-filing deadline, but the report by the party itself did not meet Local Elections Campaign Financing Act (LECFA) requirements.
“Elections BC notified Progress Vancouver on March 10 that they were required to file a corrective supplementary report within 30 days,” the Elections BC statement said. "Since then, Elections BC advised Progress Vancouver multiple times on their legal responsibilities and what was required of them to correct the deficiencies in the financial reports. Despite this Progress Vancouver did not provide a supplementary report that addressed the legislated reporting deficiencies by the compliance deadline.”
In a statement posted to his Twitter account on Tuesday, Marissen repeated much of the statement he provided to a reporter in February before a story about the prohibited $50,000 loan from Jason McLean.
Marissen said the party failed to notice the NDP government’s amendments to local election campaign financing laws in 2021, which deem all loans to an elector organization to be loans for election expenses and subject to the prescribed limit on loans from non-financial institutions.
Marissen also said the party received wrong advice in early January 2022 from an unnamed lawyer, that there was no jurisdictional limit, dollar limit, or limit based on individual versus corporate status to fund the day-to-day operations of a party office outside of campaign or election periods.
“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 as explained above,” said Marissen’s statement. “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 contributors [sic] data, and addressed those issues as best it could with the information available by the time the supplementary report was filed.”
Joining Marissen on the disqualification list are city council candidates Mauro Francis, Marie Noelle Rosa, Morganne Oger, May He, David Chin and Asha Hayer, and Metro Vancouver Regional District candidate Jonah Gonzales.
None was elected in the Oct. 15, 2022 election.
Under Elections BC de-registration rules, the party must file a report by next Jan. 4 for the period of Jan. 1 to July 4, 2023. A separate report must also be filed if any financial transactions are made after July 4.
Marissen is the principal of lobbying and strategic communications firm Burrard Strategy and a longtime federal Liberal and BC Liberal backroom strategist. He is also a senior advisor to McMillan Vantage, a lobbying company related to the McMillan law firm. Since the election, Surrey city hall contracted Marissen for $20,000 to lobby the B.C. NDP government to close down the Surrey Police Service and keep the RCMP as the local police force.
Marissen, who enjoyed success in organizing corporate-funded political campaigns before the 2017 end of B.C.’s big money era, had vowed in February to repay McLean for the loan that was intended to finance day-to-day administration of the party office. It was due for repayment on the Oct. 15 election day, subject to five per cent interest.
McLean is the CEO of the privately held McLean Group, which owns real estate, construction, film production, IT and communications, and flight charter companies. He is a former chair of the then-named Vancouver Board of Trade and former Vancouver Police Board member who worked as an aide in the office of Liberal prime minister Jean Chretien.
In a June 18 Facebook post, Marissen posed for a photograph with McLean in a Coal Harbour condo at a fundraiser aimed at paying off campaign debts: “It’s much more challenging afterwards — every bit helps,” Marissen wrote.
Also present were former B.C. premier and Marissen’s ex-wife Christy Clark, former Vancouver mayor and former BC Liberal MLA Sam Sullivan, ex-Liberal MP Herb Dhaliwal and Daoping Bao, the CEO of Burnaby’s Smart Label Solutions, where Marissen is on the advisory board.
Bao and chief development officer Ivan Pak were two of the three founders of the Chinese Canadians Goto Vote Association (CCGVA) that formed a week after the 2021 federal election.
Supporters of CCGVA, including two heads of groups aligned with the Chinese Communist Party’s United Front, promoted Liberal Parm Bains in the controversial 2021 defeat of Conservative incumbent Kenny Chiu in Steveston-Richmond East.
Chiu has alleged a disinformation campaign against him on Chinese-language social media helped topple his re-election bid.
Commissioner of Canada Elections Caroline Simard told a House of Commons committee hearing in March that her agency was investigating foreign interference in the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.