South Delta MLA Vicki Huntington introduced a pair of bills last week aiming to reform campaign financing and level the electoral playing field.
The first bill would prohibit employees of the Office of the Premier and members of the government’s executive council from attending fundraising functions and bar members of the executive council from personally soliciting political contributions.
The second would eliminate corporate, union and out-of-province donations and limit personal donations by B.C. residents to $1,500 for both provincial and municipal elections.
The bills come at a time when the BC Liberals’ controversial “cash-for-access” fundraising methods – where for $10,000 guests can rub shoulders with Premier Christy Clark at galas and dinners – have come under considerable public scrutiny.
“What I was attempting to do is remove that obvious conflict of interest; it’s not only perceived, I think it is a conflict. You see the conflict play out in terms of policy around development, especially in the building trades, [and] in resources where the big, big money comes from,” Huntington said.
She warned that if the political climate within B.C. isn’t changed, the influx of big money into provincial politics could shift the province further towards an American style of government.
“British Columbia is slipping into that. The government has just in the last year removed pre-election spending limits,” Huntington said.
She added that when running against a candidate who is receiving these sizeable donations, “it becomes very, very difficult for the average individual to run a campaign effectively.”
Delta North MLA Scott Hamilton, a BC Liberal, could not be reached for comment on the bills before press deadline.
Ravi Kahlon (pictured), BC NDP candidate for Delta North, says he is all for the exclusion of unchecked political donations and the influence it has on politics.
“Last provincial election, I would say Christy Clark and the B.C. Liberals ran the most negative campaign that I’ve ever seen against Adrian Dix, and essentially destroyed his character,” he said, an offensive which wouldn’t have been possible if not for the party’s sizeable war chest.
Kahlon also cited a recent article in the New York Times that criticized the province’s lack of restrictions on election spending.
“Bringing in these legislations like Vicki [Huntington] has, like John Horgan has, it keeps this issue front and centre in people’s minds because, essentially, we don’t want U.S. politics here and that’s what we have,” he said. “We believe it needs to change and all we can do from the opposition side is to continue to advocate for it.”
Huntington acknowledged the chances of such a bill passing in a Liberal-dominated house are virtually impossible, but said the public’s awareness of the issue makes it impossible for the sitting government to ignore it any longer.