MLA candidates weigh in on party donations

The Columbia River-Revelstoke region MLA candidates discuss party donations

While the province prepares for the upcoming election, a special prosecutor has been brought in to assist RCMP as they investigate political donations each party has received. The investigation will look at whether or not donations made violated the BC Elections Act. The investigation will look at who was donating to the parties whether it was unions, corporations or individuals donating on behalf of an organization.

Local MLA candidate for the Green party Samson Boyer said he believes that corporate and union donations should not be allowed in any way, shape, or form.

“In British Columbia political donations have become more akin to contract bidding. A report released by the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Corporate Mapping Project found that, since 2008, the fossil fuel industry donated $5.2 million to political parties in B.C. 92 per cent of which went to the B.C. Liberals. The B.C. Liberals fundraised an incredible $12 million in the last year alone, $5.2 million (52 per cent) of which came from corporations,” said Boyer.

Boyer went on to say when politicians receive money from unions and corporations the interest of the constituency are inevitably undermined. “This has become a pay-to-play system in this province and I, along with the B.C. Green Party, plan bring it to an end,” said Boyer.

Independent candidate Justin Hooles suggest that a change in incentive structure could remove the political bribery. “Only individual British Columbians who are eligible to vote should be allowed to donate to B.C.’s political parties and even then, there must be limits to the amount. By changing the political financing laws, we could change the incentive structure for how decisions are made in government. It would make B.C.’s political parties more accountable to its citizens, and get rid of the current system of legal bribery. The B.C. Liberals will likely claim, the only alternative to corporate donations is a public subsidy, but I think they could just learn to work with less money,” said Hooles.

NDP candidate Gerry Taft said that big money needs to be taken out of politics, and is focusing his campaign on raising donations from regular people, not corporations. “I am proud in my campaign that we are raising donations from real people, ranging from $15 to $500. In contrast, very few individuals donate to the B.C. Liberals. According to recently released numbers, less than 10,000 British Columbians donated to Christy Clark in 2016,” said Taft. Taft said that Premier Clark’s donations stem from big corporations and the richest people in British Columbia, adding you can see that in her actions.

“Christy Clark sees no problem with selling access to the highest bidder, taking a secret second salary from corporate donations, driving a donated SUV, granting government contracts to donors and supporters, and causing British Columbia to be labeled the lawless ‘wild west’ of political campaign donations,” said Taft.

Taft criticized Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok for what Taft labelled as Clovechok’s past of fundrasing for big business in Alberta.

“Four years ago, Doug Clovechok saw no problem with going to Calgary to raise money from non-resident oil tycoons and big businesses, including now British citizen Murray Edwards who owns the mine responsible for the Mount Polley tailing pond disaster,” said Taft.

Liberal candidate Doug Clovechok said accountability and transparency are what the public cares about, knowing whether donations come from individuals, businesses, or unions, pointing out that the Liberals are now reporting all their donations in real time on their website, however, the NDP and Green parties have yet to adopt such as system.

“Competing for donations is like competing for votes. Those who support the policies and vision of a political party will vote for and donate to that party. The NDP wants taxpayers to pay the cost of a campaign so they don’t have to compete for donations,” said Clovechok.

While most of the Columbia River-Revelstoke candidates are calling for a change to the political donation system, it’s something that can’t change overnight.

“These are big decisions with far-reaching consequences and shouldn’t be made only by politicians right before an election,” said Clovechok.

While Premier Clark sets an independent panel to review ideas on change, the RCMP investigation continues.