NDP leader John Horgan emerges from Government House as the sun sets June 29, moments after being named premier designate by Lt. Gov. Judith Guichon. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)

B.C.’s big money battle isn’t over yet

John Horgan, Christy Clark posture on poltical donations

In its brief, desperate legislature session last week, the B.C. Liberal government tried to deliver immediately on one of its many sudden, see-the-light promises after losing its majority in the May election.

After refusing years of demands to curb the millions in corporate and union donations funding political parties, particularly their own, they rose from their political deathbed to repent. Justice Minister (and former B.C. Liberal Party president) Andrew Wilkinson presented Election Act changes that would do away with corporate and union donations, at the provincial and local level.

Opposition MLAs from the B.C. NDP and Greens reacted quickly. In a move no one can remember seeing before, they voted against first reading of the legislation. As a result, the exact details officially don’t exist in the legislature record.

The government news release is all that remains, and it shows that while all parties profess to be in favour of restricting political donations to individuals only, the battle over big money isn’t over yet.

In an earlier column I recapped the flood of big donations to the B.C. Liberals after the uncertain result of the election. Green MLA Andrew Weaver, leader of the only party with clean hands on this issue, noted in the legislature last week that they took in $1 million in the first three days.

Wilkinson said the rejected B.C. Liberal amendments would have set a limit of $2,500 a year on personal donations, which is half right. A donor with cash to spare could give $2,500 to his party of choice and another $2,500 to the local candidate, for a total of $5,000.

Compare that to the current federal rules, which allow $1,550 a year in donations to a party and another $1,550 to a candidate, with no corporate or union donations. And to the Alberta NDP government of Rachel Notley, which in its first act a provincial government banned union and corporate gifts and limited individual donations to $4,000 a year, including donations to party leadership campaigns.

A B.C. NDP government led by John Horgan would be expected to follow the Alberta NDP example. One thing to watch is how they handle “in kind” donations, a staple of NDP campaigns where unions lend their staff to the party to help with campaigns.

The B.C. Liberal bill made a point of including “in kind” donations in its new restrictions. It also would have prohibited transfers of money from a federal to a provincial party, a measure that would only affect the NDP. It remains to be seen if Horgan would preserve his party’s advantages, after so many years of watching the B.C. Liberals pile up the corporate cash.

Wilkinson’s bill also would have banned foreign donations, restricting giving to B.C. residents who are Canadian citizens or permanent residents.

Clark and Horgan had a dialogue of the deaf on this issue during the spring election campaign. Horgan demanded the “big money” be taken out, but avoided the issue of “in kind” donations. Clark kept hammering away at her accusation that an NDP government would replace corporate and union cash with a direct subsidy from taxpayers. Jean Chrétien did this at the federal level and this ugly mistake kept the separatist Bloc Quebecois viable for years longer than it deserved.

Horgan has continuously sidestepped the question of public subsidy, raising suspicion that he wants to increase welfare for political parties too.

One thing we can count on in this time of political uncertainty. Parties will serve themselves until forced to do the right thing.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Cable Car quarry to go ahead

A second application for a quarry on Kitamaat Village Road is underway

Heavy rains threatened operations at Rio Tinto

Situation aggravated by the washout of the PNG gas pipeline

Ross backs Wilkinson for head of BC Liberals

“As an urbanite, he’s very aware of the issues that are important to rural people.” - Ross

Amendments will prevent unreasonable rent increases

The amendments would improve the rights of renters throughout the province.

VIDEO: Researchers rely on drones to survey aftermath of B.C. wildfires

UBC researchers are using aerial drones to study the historic 2017 wildfires in the province

VIDEO: Average Canadian food bill to rise by $348 in 2018

Atlantic Canada and B.C. will see the most increases for consumers

Owl found dead after eating rat poison leaves B.C. woman concerned

After finding the owl on her Surrey property, Christine Trozzo says the poison is a concern for kids

Change to CPP death benefit panned as insufficient to cover funeral costs

Funeral Services Association of Canada lobbied governments to raise the value to $3,580

#MeToo at work: Employers play a role in fixing culture of sexual harassment

B.C. workplaces are getting ahead of being the next MeToo debacle, calling on experts to train staff

New real estate rule will hurt Kitimat market

“I feel I have been robbed of what I have been good at for the past nine years”

B.C. woman brain injured in crash as a baby gets $1.1 million in damages

Trial heard the woman was 16 months old, being carried by her mother when they were both hit

Court denies WestJet’s bid to toss out discrimination lawsuit of former worker

Mandalena Lewis is suing WestJet over allegations of gender-based discrimination

VIDEO: 3 months later, rescued sea lion released back into ocean

The young animal was found in Campbell River three months ago

Sagmoen neighbours recall alleged hammer attack

Woman was screaming outside Maple Ridge townhouse in 2013

Most Read