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BC rules out banning corporate and union donations

Oct 30 2016

VICTORIA — B.C. will not be following Ontario’s lead in banning political donations from corporations and unions, says the province’s finance minister.

Mike de Jong said Monday that the provincial government will not introduce legislation that would ban big money from politics, or set limits on donors. Instead, he argued that B.C.’s existing laws on fundraising, reporting and fixed election dates — combined with a new pledge from Premier Christy Clark to move toward real-time disclosure of donors — is sufficient for public confidence in the system.

“Not that there isn’t room for improvement, (but) it’s fairly transparent compared to the way it once was,” de Jong said in an interview. “The conversation ultimately comes around to … is the government contemplating adopting the kind of ban that others are talking about on corporate donations and union donations? We are not.”

B.C.’s rejection of political finance reform comes amid renewed pressure in other provinces to remove the influence of large donations on politicians and political parties. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne pledged Monday to speed up legislation to ban corporate and union donations, after the Toronto Star reported her party had placed $500,000 fundraising targets upon her ministers, raising the prospect they could be soliciting money from businesses and people that they regulate.

In B.C., Clark’s Liberal party has faced criticism for $10,000 per-ticket fundraisers that provide donors access to the premier and ministers.

The provincial NDP, which holds similar fundraisers, had promised to introduce private members’ legislation on political finance reform this week.

But they were beaten to the issue Monday by independent Delta South MLA Vicki Huntington, who already had her own bill ready to file at the legislature. Huntington’s proposed law would also place a $1,500 annual donation limit on B.C. residents.

“Overall, it will strengthen the system from the point of view of the voters,” said Huntington. “That’s really what I want to see done. There’s a lot of cynicism out there. Something, somewhere, has to fix that or we’re just going to go deeper and deeper into the hole. And B.C. is the only major province holding out on it.”

Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Alberta have banned political donations from corporations and unions. The federal government also has a ban, but for several years provided public subsidies to political parties.

De Jong said he sees little interest in B.C. for using tax dollars to fund political parties. He said “there’s a pretty strong body of evidence” that suggests fundraising success does not always translate into success in elections.

“At the end of the day, people will determine whether or not decisions are being motivated by sound public policy considerations or something else,” he said. “And I think the public has a pretty good nose for that. But they need to have the information.”

rshaw@postmedia.com

twitter.com/robshaw_vansun

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