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BC Politics

NDP’s Horgan Reintroduces, Again, a Bill to Stop Wealthy Donors from ‘Buying’ Government

New version would prevent premier, cabinet from receiving pay from a political party.

Andrew MacLeod 17 Feb

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative bureau chief in Victoria and the author of A Better Place on Earth: The Search for Fairness in Super Unequal British Columbia (Harbour Publishing, 2015). Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

British Columbia NDP leader John Horgan reintroduced, for the sixth time, a bill Thursday that would ban big money from provincial politics.

Unlike past versions, none of which the Liberal majority in the legislature has supported, the new bill would also ban donations from outside the province and stop the premier and cabinet ministers from taking any pay other than their public salary.

“This is the sixth time we’ve brought this forward and I believe it will be the sixth time the B.C. Liberals reject the notion of having their big, wealthy, well-connected donors cut off from buying the best government corporate money has ever seen,” Horgan told reporters after introducing the bill in the legislature. “This is long overdue.”

Horgan said other jurisdictions disallow donations from outside their borders and B.C. should as well.

After several months of political pressure, Premier Christy Clark recently said she would stop receiving a $50,000 annual payment from the BC Liberal Party. Horgan said the NDP bill would make it illegal for the premier or other members of cabinet to receive pay from any source other than the public.

“If you’re a member of the executive council, you receive a salary from the public for the services you provide as a public servant and you’re not entitled to any other funds, whether it be from individuals or corporations, whether you own them or whether they are privately held,” Horgan said.

Finance minister and government house leader Michael de Jong said Horgan was correct the bill would not find support from BC Liberals in the legislature.

“There’s no intention on the part of government at this point to make the change that I believe is being advocated to replace a mechanism for donations for the alternatives we’ve seen where tax dollars are used to replace donations,” de Jong said. “That’s not something that we’ve been drawn to.”

In January, the BC Liberals began posting records of donations on the party website within 10 days of receiving them. De Jong said the government intends to make that kind of disclosure the law and could introduce the legislation during the current session.

Horgan said it was important to reintroduce the NDP bill to ban corporate and union donations, even if the government was unlikely to pass it. “I think people want to know and have some hope and confidence that there is someone out there that understands that this big money distorts our political process and we need to change that,” he said.

Independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington also introduced two bills Thursday that are unlikely to pass. One would end cash-for-access fundraising and “ban the premier, cabinet ministers and their staff from attending political fundraisers, soliciting donations and inviting anyone to attend political fundraisers.”

The other would ban corporate and union donations and would limit all political donations to $1,500 per person per year. Those changes would apply to both provincial and municipal elections.  [Tyee]

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