NDP looks to rein in political money with ban on corporate, union donations

Party has come under fire for continuing to accept money from unions and corporations after criticizing the former Liberal government for fundraisers

Premier John Horgan is scheduled to attend a fundraiser in Vancouver next. The NDP has come under fire for continuing to accept money from unions and corporations after criticizing the former Liberal government for holding “cash-for-access” fundraisers.  Photo By Rob Brown

The B.C. government will introduce legislation next week to get big money out of politics even as the NDP prepares to hold a $525-a-head fundraiser with Premier John Horgan in Vancouver.

Attorney General David Eby said the legislation will be a “leading bill in Canada” that bans union and corporate donations to political parties and sets a cap on individual contributions. Eby said the bill has taken time to draft because of concerns that if the government bans donations in one area, the money will show up elsewhere in leadership contests, third parties or conventions.

“We’ve been working on those,” he said.

“I’m very enthusiastic about where we’ve arrived. I look forward to introducing the bill. I hope to introduce it next week, and I think everyone will be very excited when they read it.”

The NDP has come under fire for continuing to accept money from unions and corporations after criticizing the former Liberal government for holding “cash-for-access” fundraisers.

The NDP’s website lists seven events over the next two months, including a Leader’s Levee with Horgan at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver on Sept. 22. Tickets cost $525 or $3,000 for a group of seven.

Asked about the ongoing NDP fundraisers, Eby said the legislation will deal with that, too.

“The bill will address donations that have been made by unions and corporations since the last election,” he said.

“We think it’s important that it does that in order to assure the public that 2017 is the last big money election in British Columbia.”

Eby said the bill will set a cap on individual donations somewhere between Quebec’s $100 limit and Alberta’s $3,000 cap.

In a role reversal Wednesday, the Opposition Liberals introduced a private member’s bill to ban union and corporate donations despite rejecting similar bills by the NDP on six occasions while in government.

Liberal attorney general critic Andrew Wilkinson said his bill was the same one the NDP and Greens blocked in June before defeating the Liberal government on a confidence vote.

“The Green Party and the NDP have said they’re interested in working across partisan lines for the good of British Columbians and this is a chance for them to prove it,” he said.

Eby said he was encouraged by the Liberals’ “change of heart” on campaign finance reform.

“I’m glad they’re interested,” he said. “I find it remarkable and exciting that all of the parties in the house are in favour of this kind of reform and I hope we’re able to reach agreement on it across all party lines.

“I think that would be most effective if all parties agreed to the bill, because it’s going to have to be enforced and it relies on parties following the rules. If the Liberals are enthusiastic about it, that makes me happy.”

Eby added that the NDP has had discussions with the Greens about the bill and the provisions they would like to see.

“I think we’ve arrived at a version of the bill that all parties can get behind and support,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Greens had suggestions they’d like to make even formally through amendments. We’ll see. But, in any event, this is going to be a bill, I hope, in light of the Liberal change of heart, that all members will be able to support.”

The Greens, who stopped accepting union and corporate donations last year, said they were looking forward to debating the bill and finally getting big money out of B.C. politics.

“What we need is policy that is about far-reaching impacts into the future,” said Cowichan Valley Green MLA Sonia Furstenau.

“If it delays it a couple of weeks to consult and get that right, and that means we have better policy and legislation, that’s good. If the NDP choose to get one last fundraiser in under the wire, that’s their political capital they’re choosing to spend.”