We vote in a provincial election May 9 and like me, you might want to make your choice based on the issues: Pipelines, B.C. Hydro, ICBC, our disastrous record with children in crisis, family doctors, education or anything else.
You should be able to choose the government that best represents your views on one or many issues, as you weigh them.
In B.C., we have just two parties with a chance to win, so it’s not much of a choice to begin with, but for a generation, the NDP and B.C. Liberals have been the only viable alternatives to challenge for the right to govern.
Since 2001 that has been the B.C. Liberals but this year, they may rob us of the chance to vote on issues. They’re making a strong case their problems are even greater; that they are no longer a viable alternative.
They’ve profitted greatly by creating a climate for party fundraising in this province that could rival U.S. politics. The situation was described in recent reports as ranging from the ‘Wild West’ of fundraising to ‘extortion’ and that’s not an exaggeration. The Liberals gleefully pronounce how much money they raise — $12 million last year alone — and see nothing wrong with refusing to set limits on donations or accepting foreign donations, among many other criticisms.
The party raises so much money, it topped up Premier Christy Clark’s salary by $50,000 a year, directly tying her, until it was exposed, to the success of party fundraising.
The Globe and Mail, the National Post, the New York Times and others have exposed this blatant corruption with barely a whimper until The Globe’s report by Kathy Tomlinson revealed some eye-popping revelations, prompting Elections B.C. to announce this week it will investigate some of the allegations.
Tomlinson says some businesses feel ‘coerced’ to contribute directly to the B.C. Liberals or pay lobbyists to do it or buy expensive tickets for direct access to cabinet ministers and the premier or they’ll get left behind. Their urgency increases if competing interests go along with it and continue to grease the rails.
The Liberals don’t even refute this corruption; they defend it. They post donations on their website — ‘see, we’ve got nothing to hide’ — and think it means nothing to get six figure donations from businesses wanting government contracts.
The bottomless hole for donations the Liberals prefer means their organizers can harass anyone with an interest in seeing them return to power with call after call after call. The Globe quoted lobbyists (lobbyists!) calling it ‘extortionist,’ ‘like a shakedown,’ and saying the system ‘corrupts in a very deep and profound way.’
The NDP aren’t blameless in this either. They’re also working the phones for the same donors, reminding them they have a shot at power and can’t be left out. Both parties see only two types of people in this province — those for them and against them.
I got that sense shortly after the last election when I interviewed Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster in 2013. He didn’t see anything wrong with sending taxpayers a bill for nearly $70,000 in major renovations for his constituency office which he leases from a party donor and supporter, who benefitted from the renos.
"If you contact every MLA in this province and ask them who they rent from… they rent from supporters. There is no impropriety there whatsoever,” he said.
The NDP rent from supporters. The Liberals rent from supporters. He didn’t even realize the real message: If you don’t pay, there's no chance they'll play. So where does that leave the rest of us?
I don't want to be distracted by these problems. Usually we, as voters, let these things slide until it stinks so bad, we have to toss them all out. Well it's so rotten in B.C. right now, they can smell it at the Times in New York.
I hope it’s not too late. If Christy Clark and the Liberals can implement some meaningful changes to party fundraising, maybe their platform on other issues will mean more. Because right now, it looks like this voter will have to do something he swore he'd never do.
The first consideration for a vote, before the challenges of the day, must be good government. Until the Liberals clean this up, they can’t make that claim.
— Marshall Jones is the editor of iNFOnews.ca
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