‘Big money is distorting our politics’: BC NDP leader on the issue of political donations

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WATCH: NDP's John Horgan calls on Liberals to ban big money donations. But Premier Christy Clark refuses to take any questions as the provincial election looms on the horizon. Keith Baldrey reports – Jan 19, 2017

BC NDP leader John Horgan is calling for a ban on corporate and union donations to political parties after a scathing report about British Columbia’s system of political fundraising.

Last week, B.C. was caught up in controversy when the provincial political donations system was profiled in a New York Times’ article headlined, “British Columbia: The ‘Wild West’ of Canadian Political Cash.”

In particular, Premier Christy Clark was under fire because $50,000 worth of donations to the Liberal party has gone to her paycheque.

Despite criticism, the conflict of interest commissioner, whose son works for Clark, has never found that to be in violation of the province’s Conflict of Interest Act.

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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The Times also focused on how B.C. doesn’t place any limits on political contributions.

READ MORE: ‘It’s embarrassing’: Experts, politicians weigh in on New York Times article exposing B.C. political cash

“What we have seen since [the 2013 provincial election] is fundraising by the BC Liberals raised to a fine art,” Horgan told reporters in Victoria on Thursday.

Horgan says 2016 data released by the BC Liberal Party shows 185 donors gave the party $6 million, half of the money raised last year.

“We are a province of 4.5 million people and 185 donors are funding half of the activities of the governing party,” he said. “They are getting a good return on their investment in the BC Liberals while regular people are paying more.”

Horgan says he tabled a bill to eliminate union and corporate donations when he first became leader and will do it again when the House reconvenes at the end of January.

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“If I am premier, we will ban corporate and union donations and put people back at the centre of our politics, where they truly belong,” Horgan said. “We need to change the law and apparently in order to do that, we need to change the government. The BC Liberals are not interested based on their success in raising money.”

Earlier this month, BC Liberals announced they will begin posting their political donations in real time in what the party said is a voluntary move to improve transparency and accountability.

Horgan calls the real-time disclosure system a gimmick. “It is an opportunity for Christy Clark to give the impression of action when none truly exists.”

“I feel British Columbians are at a disadvantage when the wealthy and the well-connected can get access to the government,” Horgan said. “Big money is distorting our politics.”

The fundraising numbers for BC NDP are expected to be released at the end of February.

-With files from Jesse Ferreras and the Canadian Press