NDP fails to sway B.C. Liberals on banning corporate and union donations

By The Canadian Press
January 19, 2017 - 4:45pm Updated: January 19, 2017 - 5:54pm

VICTORIA — The NDP in British Columbia won’t get support from the Liberals to ban corporate and union donations to the province’s political parties.

New Democrat Leader John Horgan asked Premier Christy Clark on Thursday to support a bill he plans to introduce in the legislature next month.

Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson delivered the Liberals’ reply, saying the party will reject the NDP bill.

Horgan has been critical of Clark’s fundraising, saying that just 1.5 per cent of donors to the Liberals accounted for half of the $12.3 million raised by the party last year.

He said the top 185 donors gave an average of $37,000 each to the Liberals.

“We need to take big money out of politics,” he said, noting that those 185 donors gave $6 million to the B.C. Liberals and 26 gave half of that total.

“That’s an abuse, I believe, of wealth and affluence and it’s having an impact on our democracy. That’s why we need to change the law.”

The NDP has introduced similar bills before and all have failed.

Wilkinson told reporters that the Liberals are in favour of transparency in the public funding of elections.

“Political parties are a necessary part of our system and they need to raise money to operate and we favour a system whereby there is complete disclosure on a timely, urgent basis so the public know who is funding political parties.”

The Liberals released 2016 figures on the donations it received last week and it announced the party will begin posting the information online within 10 business days of receiving a donation.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone, who is also the Liberal party’s campaign co-chairman, said the move was made to be transparent and accountable.

The party has been criticized for holding exclusive fundraising events with access to Clark where tickets can cost up to $20,000 each.

The Liberals pay Clark and extra $50,000 a year for the work she does for the party throughout the year.

“Since she became premier, she will have received almost $300,000 as a result of her fundraising activities,” Horgan said. “I believe that’s wrong and we need to change that.”

Clark spoke to the Truck Loggers Association in Vancouver on Thursday, but was not made available to answer questions after her speech.

Paul Fraser, B.C.’s conflict of interest commissioner, has ruled Clark isn’t violating conflict-of-interest guidelines by attending the fundraising events.

The party said individual donors outnumbered corporate donors by a four-to-one margin, with 9,324 individuals and 1,876 corporations making donations in 2016. The party said 84 per cent of corporate donations last year were $5,000 or less.

The largest Liberal donors were primarily from the corporate sector, with Vancouver’s Aquilini Investment Group contributing $131,000, property project developer 2300 Kingsway Residences donating $200,000 and Bert’s Electric (2001) Ltd. of Langley contributing $100,000.

The New Democrats received $3 million in political donations in 2015, but the party has not released the amount of its 2016 donations. Horgan has said 80 per cent of donations to the party are from individuals.

The filing deadline for 2016 donations is March 31 under the Election Act. 

The Canadian Press

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