Elections BC says it has referred the investigation into alleged violations of political donation laws to the RCMP.
“This investigation has been referred to ensure that it will in no way impede Elections BC’s administration of the provincial general election scheduled for May 9,” said a statement from Chief Electoral Officer Keith Archer.
“This referral will also ensure that there is no perception that Elections BC’s ability to administer the general election in a fair, neutral and impartial manner is in any way compromised,” it said. “The potential scope and timing of this matter make the RCMP the most appropriate agency to continue this investigation.”
The investigation follows reports in the Globe and Mail that lobbyists have been making political donations to the BC Liberals under their own names and then being reimbursed by clients, thus obscuring the real source of the contributions. The report also raised the question of whether some lobbyists may have claimed tax credits for those donations.
The newspaper quoted lobbyists saying both main B..C. parties “are equally guilty of squeezing money from players who want something from government.”
BC Liberal Party spokesperson Emile Scheffel said in an emailed statement that the party is committed to transparency and accountability. “That’s why we are voluntarily reporting all contributions in real time on our website,” the statement said. “We have co-operated fully with Elections BC to date, and will co-operate fully if contacted by the RCMP.”
In a statement, NDP leader John Horgan said, “We welcome the elevation of this investigation to the RCMP.”
“British Columbians deserve answers on the influence of big money under Christy Clark and I hope this investigation is thorough and comprehensive,” the statement said.
In January, the BC Liberal party began posting donation details on its website within 10 days of receiving them.
Clark said this week that the government will introduce legislation Monday to make similar disclosure a requirement for all parties.
But Clark said the legislation will not include any limits on the size or source of donations.
B.C. is among a minority of Canadian provinces that have no limits on how much donors can give. Corporate and union donations and political contributions from outside the province — or country — are allowed.
The NDP has promised to ban corporate and union donations if it wins the election but continues to accept such donations, saying it needs them to compete with the BC Liberals.
Voters have a choice in the election, Horgan said. “It’s a choice between a premier who will stop at nothing to protect her rich corporate friends or a new premier who stops big money in its tracks by banning corporate and union donations and fights for hardworking British Columbians every single day.”
B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver announced in September that his party would stop accepting corporate and union donations, though observers pointed out it received little money from either group.
“I am glad to hear that Elections BC has turned this investigation over to the RCMP,” Weaver said in a statement Friday. “This investigation underscores the dire need for wholesale electoral finance reform in British Columbia. I implore the RCMP to conduct a thorough investigation and to release the results prior to the May 9 election.”