Condo King Bob Rennie’s abdication as chief Liberal fundraiser raises questions

Bob Rennie | BIV files

If money is the necessary oxygen for a political campaign, Bob Rennie has been the life-saving tank for the BC Liberals.

Rennie, the Vancouver-based real estate marketer and poster boy for the industry’s growth in this market, has been working as the BC Liberal Party’s chief fundraiser for nearly four years.

In that time he has retired a significant debt it needed to amass in 2013 to beat the NDP and has conferred a $6 million nest egg – $4 million for the ridings, $2 million at party headquarters – for it to spend, and perhaps burn through, in the next few months to retain power.

But Rennie has surprisingly opted to step aside as the fray gets frenetic.

The man who constantly linked high-net-worth donors to the party and organized events to maximize the intake of resources – suddenly, he is much less prominent in the mix.

He won’t say precisely why he has left the role at this crucial juncture. He will say that he’ll answer the call if “in February the premier wakes up one day and needs me,” but Plan A is to be far less of his typical force majeure in the time ahead.

It is true that Rennie can point to the batch of cultural boards that are consuming his bandwidth – his passion for and patronage of culture is well known and highly visible.

Still, the Liberals are in a neck-and-neck race with the NDP with the May 9 election date looming, and it is surprising that he is choosing to relinquish the steering wheel for the backseat at this stage of the drive.

The party itself isn’t much discussing his changed status. What it will say is that he has accomplished the mission set out in 2013 to put the Liberals into the black.

But the timing of this is hardly congruent with a committed campaign in the throes of urgency. It just doesn’t make sense that your principal rainmaker has taken his magic cloud technique away at this stage.

A couple of campaigns I’ve heard from are suddenly worried they don’t have the funds to spend or won’t be given a long leash to build bills if the campaign requires spontaneous spending.

For its part, the party suggests that all is in hand, that Rennie’s move hasn’t precipitated a changing of the guard. An important note in this: there is no new campaign fundraising chair for the Liberals, no new Rennie.

For his part, Rennie professes nothing but admiration for the premier. If she calls in need, he’ll drop what he’s doing and come back.

But for the time being, it remains curious on why he chose his step down now, as the party gets into the thick of the fundraising so crucial to its success.  It’s hard to believe there is less than meets the eye.

Kirk LaPointe is Business in Vancouver’s vice-president of audience and business development.