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Clark introduces election finance changes; doesn’t ban union and corporate donations

After rebuking many calls for election finance reform and now an RCMP investigation into how some lobbyists have donated to political parties, the provincial Liberal government is making some changes.

Amendments to the Election Act tabled today will introduce real-time reporting of contributions and include new rules for how fundraising events and political contributions are reported so that the public can see who is donating to any political party.

Key measures include:

  • Lowering the threshold for reporting political contributions from a single contributor to $100 (currently it is $250).
  • Reporting contributions to major political parties, candidates and constituency associations within 14 days of their deposit, including the nature of the contribution (whether it is a donation, a ticketed event or a sponsorship).
  • Fundraising functions must be posted on the political party’s website within five days of the event.
  • A penalty of $10,000 for failing to publish fundraising information as required.

The amendments in this legislation will also give authority for the chief electoral officer to publish disclosure reports and other financing reports online.

“We intend to strengthen transparency, which is a core principle of our system,” said Premier Christy Clark. “Equally important is that taxpayers should not have to subsidize political parties – and those are the principles that will guide us as we take new steps to make sure our electoral financing system evolves reflecting the values of British Columbians into the future.”

BC NDP leader John Horgan says the changes announced today don’t go far enough because they don’t stop how those money can influence political parties and politicians.

“Even when facing an RCMP investigation, Christy Clark is more interested in protecting herself and her rich friends than in taking real action on the issues British Columbians care about,” he said. “After years of watching Christy Clark fight to maintain the influence of big money, British Columbians have no reason to believe her claims that she might finally do the right thing after the election.”

Horgan has said an NDP government would ban corporate and union donations to political parties.

“Make no mistake: Christy Clark knows that the real issue is big money’s influence on government, and she could put a stop to it today,” he said. “Instead of doing the right thing for British Columbians, she has sided with the corporations who paid her secret second salary. We could get big money out of our politics today. All that’s missing is a ‘yes’ from Christy Clark.”

Clark has instructed the deputy attorney general to develop a framework for an independent panel to regularly review B.C.’s electoral financing system and make recommendations for reform to the legislature.

The independent panel would be modelled on existing bodies such as the Electoral Boundaries Commission. Key elements would include:

  • Selection to the expert panel must be unanimously approved by the legislature.
  • The independent panel will make recommendations every eight years after reviewing submissions from political parties, MLAs and the public as well as reviewing reforms and procedures in other jurisdictions.
  • Current proposed legislation in B.C. as well as other reforms proposed by the federal government would be included in the review.

The deputy attorney general’s work would be completed in the summer of 2017 and would form the basis of legislation to be introduced immediately afterwards. The independent panel would commence its work following the passage of legislation into law.

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