Banning corporate and union donations to B.C. political parties

This editorial appeared in the April 20, 2016 edition of The Interior News. You can download a pdf of the article here.

In the last two weeks, we in the Official Opposition introduced two Private Members Bills in the legislature that would go a long way to taking big money out of our provincial political system and create a more level and fair playing field for all.

Official Opposition leader John Horgan tabled the Campaign Finance Reform Act on April 6. It is a Bill to take big money out of the politics in British Columbia. While other provinces have instituted strict rules on campaign financing, B.C. has moved in the opposite direction. British Columbians are telling us clearly that this is the wrong direction. They’re tired of the real or perceived influence of organizations with big pockets over the political process in this province. This Bill bans corporate and union donations to political parties and restricts campaign donations to individuals. It calls on the chief electoral officer to review campaign financing and specifically set limits on individual donations.

This is the fifth time we have introduced this Bill. It has never made it past first reading due to lack of support by the BC Liberals.

The other Bill was tabled by Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman on April 14. He is the Official Opposition spokesperson on democratic reform. The Election (Spending Limits) Amendment Act would reinstate a spending limit for political parties and candidates for the 60 days prior to the beginning of the campaign period. It addresses a rule change passed by the BC Liberals that allows unlimited political spending right before the formal election campaign begins, creating a Wild West situation that we observe south of the border with some consternation.

There is increasing cynicism towards engagement in politics which has resulted in a trend towards low voter turnout, especially amongst younger people. These Bills would help to address some of that cynicism by eliminating big interests spending big money on political parties, as witnessed lately by the $20,000-a-person that was charged to attend an event with the Premier.

If the BC Liberals would support these Bills, we would all be playing by improved fundraising rules come the election in May 2017. Unfortunately, so far there has been no indication that we will see any support from the government benches on these much needed changes.

– Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine