BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson has asked Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser to rule on whether Attorney General David Eby should be allowed to participate in debate around legislation that would restrict union and corporate donations to recall campaigns.
“Does the participation by a member in the debates and votes pertaining to Bill 53 constitute a conflict of interest within the meaning of the Members Conflict of Interest Act in circumstances where the member is aware of a pending recall targeting him/her?” reads the question from Wilkinson to Fraser.
British Columbia is the only Canadian jurisdiction that provides a legislative framework for voters to remove an elected member from office. A website has been created to launch a recall campaign against Eby.
Recall petitions cannot be initiated until at least 18 months after an MLA is elected. That would make Nov. 13 the earliest opportunity to apply to recall an MLA elected in last May’s provincial election.
A B.C. MLA has never been recalled under the existing legislation.
Under the Recall and Initiative Act, citizens have up to 60 days to gather signatures and submit the petition for verification in order to remove an elected MLA.
A voter can only petition to recall the MLA for the electoral riding in which they are registered to vote. The voter must collect signatures from more than 40 per cent of voters eligible to sign the petition in that electoral district.
Right now there are no restrictions as to who can contribute to recall campaigns or how much they can contribute.
“The government has chosen to introduce Bill 53 mere days before the existing Act allows for members of the 41st Parliament to become subject to recall campaigns,” said Wilkinson in the letter.
“In fact, there are published reports indicating that several members of the Assembly, including the Member for Vancouver-Point Grey, will be targeted for recall by voters within their constituencies.”
Eby has introduced the legislation on Tuesday that would ban corporate and union donations as well as restrict advertising rules for recall campaigns. The legislation catches up on changes the province made to ban union and corporate donations to political parties.
“Recall campaigns have the potential of removing people from elected office, and it’s only fair that the rules for elections apply to recall campaigns as well,” Eby said.
“Following the changes our government made last year, this legislation will ensure that we remove the influence of big money for those in favour and opposed to a recall of an MLA.”
Premier John Horgan was asked about the issue on Thursday. Horgan says there is no recall campaign against Eby now, indicating the recall window has not yet open.
“The Liberals want to keep big money in everything,” said Horgan.
“I welcome the Liberals continuing to keep big money in politics. And the conflict commissioner may well be the best place to take that complaint and I think it is groundless.”