Ban on union, corporate donations introduced

Legislation bans "big money" but adds "public" money, with taxpayers subsidizing parties

In the spring election campaign, Liberal Party supporters highlighted that, while promising to ban big money from politics, the NDP received more than $600,000 from the United Steelworkers union.

The new NDP government is making good on its promise to ban corporate and union donations to political parties. But it is already taking heat for a provision that will require taxpayers to help subsidize political parties.

The new act will require taxpayers to subsidize political parties to help cover the costs of political campaigns during a transitional period, since it means that parties that collected donations prior to the new act coming into effect will not be able to spend that money.

Challenged this afternoon at a press conference by a reporter to explain why, in all his public discussions about campaign financing reform, he never mentioned that public money would be used to subsidize political parties, Premier John Horgan walked away without answering.

The Liberals made similar promises in their dying days of power to ban "big "money," and the new legislation was not opposed by the Liberals when it was introduced Monday Sept. 18 for first reading.

The Liberals did not commit to campaign finance reform in its platform, and only included a promise to ban union and corporate donations in its last throne speech after be reduced to a minority government.

"This legislation will make sure 2017 was the last big-money election in our province," Attorney General David Eby said in a news release. "The days of limitless donations, a lack of transparency and foreign and corporate influence over our elections are history."

The new legislation will forbid unions and corporations from making donations to political parties, and will cap donations from individuals at $1,200 annually.

The ban will be retroactive, meaning that donations collected prior to the new legislation coming into effect can’t be used for future elections.

The biggest beneficiary of the new act may be the Green Party, as it may help put them on a more even footing with the Liberals and NDP, both of which pulled in millions from business and union donations.

The Greens had implemented their own internal ban on corporate and union donations a year ago.

“Now, one year after B.C. Greens banned corporate and union donations to our own party, we will ban it province-wide once and for all,” Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver said in a press release. “I am delighted that 2017 will go down in history as the last big money election in B.C.”

In addition to banning union and corporate donations, the legislation will also:

• ban out-of-province donations;

• cap contributions that can be made by third-party advertisers;

• reduce campaign spending limits for both candidates and political parties by 25%; and

• establish fines for contraventions of the new act.