The new BC NDP government is trying to change the rules governing how political parties are funded in the province – but what exactly are those changes?
The Election Amendment Act, introduced on Monday, comes months after the New York Times branded BC the “Wild West” of political donations.
The Times’ article back in January took aim at then Premier Christy Clark and her BC Liberal Party, and made the issue a focus for opposition parties.
While the BC Greens had already banned corporate and union donations to their own party back in September 2016, the BC NDP had not.
However, during the election campaign, the BC NDP pledged “to get the big money out of politics,” and it was part of their agreement with the BC Greens to help them govern.
In a release on Monday, BC Premier John Horgan said:
“We’re reforming campaign finance rules to make sure government’s actions and decisions benefit everyone, not just those with deep pockets.”
Attorney General David Eby added that:
“The days of limitless donations, a lack of transparency and foreign and corporate influence over our elections are history.”
Meanwhile, in a release issued the same day, BC Greens leader Andrew Weaver called it “a historic day for our province’s democracy.”
“Big money has been the defining feature of what is broken in BC politics…I am delighted that 2017 will go down in history as the last big money election in BC.”
The proposed Election Amendment Act would:
In this respect, the bill is retroactive, so donations previously received that would violate the new rules could not be used for future campaign financing.
The bill also places restrictions and public reporting requirements on fundraising functions:
As well, the Act would impose new fines for violations of the new political financing rules. Fines would be as follows:
The Act would also change rules governing party expenditure during elections:
And there will also be new rules restricting on how third parties sponsor election advertising.
Controversially, the new Act will also provide parties with a temporary, taxpayer funded allowance, based on a public, per vote system.
This will apply to all political parties that in the last election got:
That allowance will begin in 2018 at $2.50 per vote received, then decrease each year until 2022:
Under the Act, a committee would be set up to establish if the allowance should be continued, and if so, at what rate and for how long.
If no action is taken, the allowance will end in 2022.
The NDP say this is intended to be used by the political parties to transition away from corporate and union donations.
However, in the BC Legislature on Tuesday, House Leader for the Opposition Mike de Jong accused Horgan of breaking a pledge not to have taxpayers fund political parties.
“I think that British Columbians actually do want to know this,” said de Jong. “Did he break the word on his own? Or was it forced upon him by members of the Green Party?”
Horgan responded by saying his government were delivering what British Columbians wanted.
“What British Columbians now know is that big money will no longer influence the decisions of their government,” said Horgan.
“That’s what British Columbians asked for, and that’s what they’re going to get.”