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New York Times report on B.C.: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash

WATCH: Premier Christy Clark is under fire because $50,000 worth of donations to the Liberal party has gone to her paycheque. John Daly has more on how the organization is defending its actions.

British Columbia: it’s a place where Premier Christy Clark can top up her salary of $195,000 with thousands of dollars that are financed by political donations to her BC Liberal Party.

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It’s a province where the conflict of interest commissioner has contributed to said party, and where his son serves in the premier’s cabinet.

And it’s a place where, in nine years, said commissioner has “never found any government official to be in violation of the province’s Conflict of Interest Act.

READ MORE: Christy Clark draws fire for taking B.C. Liberal Party stipend above her salary

Those are just three facts that The New York Times focused on in a recent article that was headlined, “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash.”

The “Wild West” quote came from Duff Conacher, the founder of advocacy organization Democracy Watch.

And his is just one voice that reporter Dan Levin consulted for a story that reports on how things work in B.C. politics.

WATCH BELOW: Thousands of dollars are donated to BC’s political parties and most people don’t think twice about where it’s coming from. However, some newly released figures might turn a few heads. Dermod Travis from IntegrityBC highlights a few peculiar donations on Unfiltered with Jill Krop.

The story noted that Clark is only one of two Canadian premiers, alongside Saskatchewan’s Brad Wall, to receive a stipend from her political party on top of her taxpayer-funded salary.

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Clark’s stipend pays her an additional $50,000 annually, continuing a practice that was observed by former premier Gordon Campbell. His stipend was as much as $90,000 at one point.

The Times also focused on how B.C. doesn’t place any limits on political contributions, even as corporate and union donations have been banned in places like Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.

B.C. Finance Minister Michael de Jong shakes hands with Premier Christy Clark after delivering a balanced budget speech for a fourth year in a row at Legislative Assembly, in Victoria on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The Times isn’t the first publication to call B.C. the “Wild West” of political donations.

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The Vancouver Sun used that very moniker to describe it in 2014, in a story that noted the province has “some of the least-restrictive laws” around political contributions in Canada.

IntegrityBC, another advocacy organization quoted in the Times article, has started a petition calling on the provincial government to ban corporate and union donations and to place limits on how much individuals can donate to political parties.

READ MORE: Alberta passes bill banning corporate and union donations

For its part, B.C. has ruled out banning corporate and union donations. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said the province wouldn’t introduce any new rules to limit such contributions after Ontario passed legislation to do that very thing last year, the Sun reported.

“Not that there isn’t room for improvement, (but) it’s fairly transparent compared to the way it once was,” he said.


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