B.C. tackles campaign finance reform — Without Even turning off Pops on ‘big money’

Starting in January, the B.C. Liberals will provide increased disclosure of who is contributing how much to their party. It’s not really what Premier Christy Clark guaranteed in response to questions regarding fundraisers. And it goes only a small distance toward the kind of campaign finance reform legislation the Alberta NDP government released.

The proposed reforms of Alberta are similar. However in British Columbia, the governing party hasn’t yet been convinced it must switch off the taps on “big money.”

“We made a commitment to get big money from politics for the benefit of all Albertans,” Christina Gray, Alberta’s Minister Responsible for Democratic Party, stated in a meeting. As soon as the New Democrats took power finishing the 44-year reign of the Conservative government, the first bill they introduced corporation donations and marriage. “This is the next step, it strengthens the integrity of the democratic process [also] enhances fiscal transparency,” Ms. Gray said.

Back in Alberta, as in Ontario, the changes imply that parties will be more determined by a relatively equal basis, and on the aid of individuals. Even the B.C. Liberals unapologetically bring their free-enterprise soul to fundraising.

Ms. Clark asserted more disclosure regarding political contributions last spring. She was responding to stories in the planet and Mail that chronicled the way her B.C. Liberal Party has stepped up its fundraising efforts for its 2017 election effort through small, private gatherings together with the Premier in a ticket cost of $10,000 or more. “I will be requesting our Chief Electoral Officer to help us change the law in the state so that we could log into the donations in real time,” she told reporters last March. “People ought to be able to see when contributions come in to political parties, not only annually.”

In her behest, the Chief Electoral Officer produced a report in May that outlined three alternatives for reform. But the government shelved the suggestions, stating more study is needed by any legislative changes. Work has been done, according to the Ministry of Justice, when a bill is going to be introduced ahead of the election in May, but it’s unclear.

By comparison, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne last spring ordered legislative changes after The Globe reported on fundraisers at which she and members of her cabinet offered romantic face-time to corporate leaders and lobbyists looking for federal contracts and hierarchical coverage decisions in exchange for donations of up to $10,000 into the Ontario Liberal Party. The state has just passed legislation which curtail fundraising by elected officials and their leading staff, cap yearly donations from individuals at a minimum of $ 3,600, also will ban corporate and union donations. That law will likely be in drive in on Jan. 1.

Ms. Clark, talking with reporters on Dec. 1, stated she’s lived up to the obligations she made last March because her party begins timely disclosure at the brand new year and post donations within 10 business days in its site. “I would argue it’s exactly what people said it was likely to be. I really don’t know whether the NDP is intending to do so too, but beginning Jan. 1, we’ll be submitting … as close to real time as you can get.”

No, the B.C. NDP will not follow suit. Leader John Horgan, who is calling for a legislated ban on corporation and marriage donations, calls real-time disclosure a diversion from the necessity to end the influence of big money. “This real-time discourse is really a red herring,” he said in a meeting. “Our plan is to form the next government and then ban corporate and union donations.”

Until the law is changed, he said, his party may raise. But he is not ready to peel back the secrecy around throwing either. On Nov. 24, the New Democrats maintained a resource-industry fundraising event in which attendees may pay $10,000 to float with Mr. Horgan, and he would not state who attended. That means it is going to likely be April prior to Elections BC disclosures will reveal who donated to the NDP, and how much.

British Columbia is not maintaining Alberta in reform because the governing party gains from the status quo. The B.C. Liberals raised $5.3-million from corporations in 2015, more than five times as much as the NDP. Ms. Clark is not considering altering the formulation, and Mr. Horgan will not lead by example to make the case for change.

Follow Justine Hunter on Twitter: @justine_hunter

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