"I think members of the legislature, people who have to run for office, know the connection between money and influence on what laws get passed." -- U.S. Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Premier Christy Clark is paid $195,000 a year by taxpayers, but that's simply not enough money to get by on. So the BC Liberal Party gives her another $50,000.
The New Democrats have filed a complaint with conflict of interest commissioner Paul Fraser, arguing that Clark is effectively making a "commission" on private dinners and other events where donors pay up to $20,000 for time with the premier.
This latest revelation in B.C.'s world of pay-for-play politics has been widely condemned, but the BC Liberals still refuse to ban corporate or union donations, as is done federally and in many provinces.
The BC Liberal Party's payments to Clark cash are offensive. The premier already makes four times the wages of the average British Columbian and 18 times government benefits of $906 a month paid to a person with disabilities.
What's more, taxpayers subsidize the BC Liberal Party. Political contributions bring generous tax breaks; donors can deduct up to 75 per cent of their contributions from their tax bills.
But let's look at this a bit differently. What else could that $50,000 be used for, if it wasn't topping up Clark's pay as premier?
Maseratis and more!
Well, Clark could forfeit her BC Liberal loot and give it to those with disabilities instead. That $50,000 would provide benefits for 4.5 people. (The rate has been frozen since 2007, and will increase -- slightly -- on Sept. 1.)
But wait -- Clark originally claimed in 2012 that the party stipend was for a "car allowance."
For $50,000 a year, Clark could be driving a fabulous $152,600 Maserati Gran Turismo Sport, and still have enough spare change left over to fund one person with a disability. And Clark would actually own the car after four years.
That's some car and some allowance!
Or maybe Clark is deeply concerned about the Vancouver School Board laying off hundreds of teachers due to provincial funding shortfalls, even though her son goes to a posh private school.
No matter -- Clark's $50,000 a year would more than cover the salary of a starting teacher in Vancouver or the B.C. school district of her choice.
Or Clark could make a statement about creating jobs by using her extra $50,000 to hire some workers -- even at Canada's lowest minimum wage of $10.45 an hour.
With $50,000, the premier could hire about 2.25 workers at minimum wage, at least until she finally raises it to a more livable amount like the $15 an hour poverty and labour activists are asking for.
And since the BC Liberals have given Clark $301,900 in party funds since she became leader in 2011, the premier is rolling in extra dough -- a lot more than any Tim Hortons worker could possibly imagine.
Whatever Clark does with the money, she should be concerned about these payments. Because even former Liberal cabinet minister Kash Heed has blasted the payments. "This kind of stuff is banned" in the rest of Canada, he said.
That would be the Kash Heed who was fined $8,000 for violating Election Act spending limits in 2009 and whose campaign manager was fined $15,000.
And when even guys like him are lecturing the BC Liberals on bad political optics, you know the party is making a serious mistake.
Read more: BC Politics