B.C. Liberals to address political party fundraising controversy with new legislation

Click to play video: 'Political fundraising under scrutiny in B.C.' Political fundraising under scrutiny in B.C.
ABOVE: The Liberal government is looking at changes to the way political parties are funded in this province. Keith Baldrey has a preview of the new legislation – Mar 13, 2017

The B.C Liberals will introduce legislation on Monday that is expected to address political party financial reform, Global News has learned.

The new legislation will create an independent panel to review how political parties raise funds and recommend any new reforms.

Finance reform proposals on the table include banning or limiting corporate or union donations, putting caps on how big donations can be and whether parties should be funded by tax dollars.

B.C. currently has almost no rules regulating political fundraising, unlike most other provinces.

NDP leader John Horgan has already put forth a private members bill that would restrict political donations to B.C. residents and ban corporate and union donations. The NDP has tabled legislation on the issue six times, but the bills have not been supported by the Liberals.

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The Liberals’ bill would also enshrine in legislation so-called real time disclosure for all parties, where the details of a political donation will have to be made public within a number of days or weeks.

It would also mandate the deputy attorney general select candidates to form an independent panel on finance reform. The nominated candidates would then need to be approved by all parties.

The panel would study finance reform proposals and decide on non-binding recommendations the legislature could adopt. The panel would meet every eight years to review rules and propose new ones if necessary.

The panel will not be formed until after the May 9 provincial election.

The move from the Liberals, which raised $12 million in donations last year, comes as the RCMP begins probing the party on possible Elections Act violations in regards to political donations.

Click to play video: 'New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash' New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash
New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash – Jan 15, 2017

READ MORE: RCMP investigates political fundraising in B.C.

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Keith Archer, British Columbia’s chief electoral officer, said in a statement last week the allegations include indirect political contributions and other potential contraventions of the Election Act. Archer cites sections 186 and 190 of the Election Act that outline restrictions on political contributions and requirements to record information about each contributor.

The Liberals have also been under fire for the past year over exclusive fundraising events where donors pay sums of up to $20,000 to attend dinners with Clark or her ministers.

The lack of rules governing party fundraising in the province had critics labeling the province the “wild west of Canadian political cash” earlier this year.

READ MORE: New York Times report on BC: Canada’s ‘Wild West’ of political cash

It’s an issue that has dominated pre-election politics, with the NDP and Green Party calling repeatedly for finance reform.

“If you introduce such legislation Monday, I assure you the New Democrat Official Opposition will work to ensure its speedy passage,” Horgan said in a letter on Friday.

“Nothing less will do, Premier. You have the power to fix the problem of big money’s influence on government this week if you choose.”

With files from The Canadian Press

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