Taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize political parties

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
September 20, 2017 - 7:06am Updated: September 20, 2017 - 6:07pm

KAMLOOPS — It really is hard to know who to cheer for in Victoria these days.

The NDP government is ending the so-called “Wild West” days of campaign financing in British Columbia.

However, taxpayers will have to pay through the nose to make it happen.

On the face of it, the NDP deserves kudos for curtailing corporate, union and foreign financing of election campaigns, something the Liberals only came onside with when they were on the verge of defeat.

In addition to banning union and corporate donations to campaigns, the new rules will put a $1,200 limit on individual contributions.

The catch is that taxpayers will fund a four-year transition to ease the pain for B.C.’s political parties, at a cost of millions of dollars. Not only that, a clause in the proposal would empower a government committee to extend the subsidies beyond the 2022 cutoff.

Based on the number of votes each party got in the last election, the Liberals, NDP and Greens will get millions from the subsidy — more than an estimated $16 million over the four years.

The rationale is that political parties need some time to adjust to the loss of donations. Premier John Horgan — who was adamant during the last campaign that taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for the changes — now calls the per-vote subsidy “the foundation” of electoral finance reform across the country.

It’s the old “if somebody else does it, why shouldn’t we” trick.

Well, how about this — let’s be different than the rest of the crowd. The Liberals are being more than a little hypocritical in now rushing in to defend taxpayers when they ignored the need for reform for 16 years, but they’re right on this one.

The New Democrats have learned how easy it is to make promises, and how equally easy it is to break them. They got it half right by getting big money out of campaigns, then blew it with the subsidy.

Quite simply, taxpayers shouldn’t have to subsidize political parties.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.