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

BC Election 2017BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wear a mask to protect others, says Vanderhoof’s top doctor

“I think wearing a mask is a small inconvenience when weighed against the possibility of giving vulnerable members of our community an infection that could kill them,” the doctor said.

Here is what school will look like for FLESS students

Students are going back to school on June 1 on a voluntary, part-time basis.

7 projects in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake and Burns Lake receive NKDF funding

Nechako-Kitamaat Development Fund Society announced $139,702 in funding on May 29.

School buses for SD91 to start running from June 1

Parents urged to drop off and pick kids up whenever possible.

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

VIDEO: NASA astronauts blast off into space on SpaceX rocket

Marks NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade

‘I knew what he wanted’: Kootenay man spends hours in tree as black bear patrols below

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

PHOTOS: U.S. cities brace for increasing unrest over police killing of George Floyd

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has fully mobilized the state’s National Guard

$200,000 Maybach impounded after ‘L’ driver caught excessively speeding in Vancouver

Meanwhile, the supervisor sat in the passenger seat, police said

COVID-19 cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a B.C. mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Most Read