B.C. premier breaks promise on campaign finance reform, Opposition Liberals say - InfoNews.ca

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B.C. premier breaks promise on campaign finance reform, Opposition Liberals say

FILE PHOTO - British Columbia Premier John Horgan pauses while speaking outside Government House in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, June 29, 2017. Horgan says he can justify spending taxpayer funds to get big money out of provincial politics because the practice won't last forever.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
September 19, 2017 - 9:00 PM

VICTORIA - British Columbia Premier John Horgan says he can justify spending taxpayer funds to get big money out of provincial politics because the practice won't last forever.

The Opposition Liberals said Tuesday that Horgan pledged before last May's election he would not stick taxpayers with the cost of campaign finance reforms. Instead, campaign financing legislation tabled Monday by the NDP minority government proposes to pay political parties about $30 million in public money.

"Why is he breaking his repeated promise and forcing British Columbians to fund through their taxes political parties they have no interest or desire to support," Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong asked during question period in the legislature.

Horgan later told reporter he can't deny publicly stating prior to the election that he wanted an independent review of funding for political parties, but he is now satisfied the current taxpayer-funded proposal has merit because it will end after five years.

"I'm owning up to what I said before the campaign," he said. "I don't want you to think I'm running away from this, because I'm not. This is a transition fund and will be gone at the end of this mandate."

Horgan acknowledged there is a clause in the proposed legislation that allows a government committee made up of members of the legislature to extend the public subsidies beyond 2022.

"Those MLA's will be accountable for their choices as I am for mine," he said.

The proposed legislation to amend the Election Act states that starting next year, political parties will be paid $2.50 for every vote they received in the last election. Funding will drop by 25 cents each year until 2021.

If the bill is passed, it means both the Liberal and New Democrat parties will receive just over $8.1 million over five years, while the Green party will get $3.4 million. The changes also ensure parties that get at least 10 per cent of the vote are reimbursed for half of their expenses — an estimated cost of $11 million based on expenses from last May's election.

The federal Liberal government introduced a similar per-vote subsidy in 2004 after banning political donations from unions and corporations, but Stephen Harper's Conservative government phased out the funding by 2015.

"The per-vote subsidy is the foundation of electoral finance reform change right across Canada," Horgan said. "The only provinces that don't have an allowance of one form or another are Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan and Alberta."

The B.C. legislation also bans out-of-province donations and caps contributions to third-party advertisers. The proposed law forbids political parties to use money raised since last May's vote in the next provincial election.

Elections BC, the agency that monitors provincial elections, reported the Liberals raised $13.1 million in 2016, while the NDP took in $6.2 million and the Greens raised $757,268.

Horgan and Green party Leader Andrew Weaver heavily criticized the former Liberal government for not reining in campaign finance rules, which allow parties to hold exclusive fundraising events where donors pay hundreds to bend politicians' ears.

The premier has continued to hold big-ticket fundraisers after his party formed government, but he said those days will soon disappear.

"I'm comfortable the objective here has been realized," he said. "No longer will those who have deep pockets be able to influence our politics."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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