Accusations of conflict of interest as a result of campaign donations are red herrings, from people who are happy to make their own contributions of money and time to motivate Saanich government to do things.
Obviously people will contribute time and money to promote candidates who match their values. They should, because ideas matter to human life.
Look at the time spent by volunteers. Look at the monetary contributions from labour unions and activist organizations. Others spend their time earning money to contribute. There is no difference, except in the minds of neo-Marxists who separate money from other activities (money is just a medium of exchange, not the magic that proponents of the mind-body dichotomy promote).
The people I’ve heard criticizing Richard Atwell and Fred Haynes on land development subjects were obviously environmentalists. People of their beliefs regularly support activist organizations who lobby government, front for foundations like Tides, and support operations that Saanich’s environmental bureaucrats use as sources of information.
For example, the Habitat Acquisition Trust was the source of analysis of tree canopy coverage. Whatever its merits, it is by definition a biased organization because of its purpose in existing.