Question 7: Will campaign finance reform happen in 2010?
Except for a few party diehards, virtually everyone in BC wants to get big money out of politics. Overwhelmingly, British Columbians are suspicious of donations from non-voters like corporations and unions. Yet the influence of money grows.
It is the “Wild West” in British Columbia. The rules on who can donate are almost non-existent, with no restrictions (as Quebec and Manitoba) on donations from non-voters like corporations, associations and unions. So as a result in 2008, (the last year for which full-year figures are available) the B.C. Liberals took in $4.7 million from non-voting corporations and unions compared to about $0.5 million for the NDP.
Even more surprising is the fact that BC law allows anonymous donations (up to a total of $10,000). BC is the only place I have ever heard of that allows political money to flow into party coffers with no name attached. It is a recipe for corruption.
In 2004, Elections BC confirmed Dogwood Initiative’s complaint that the BC Liberal Party had failed to properly disclose 478 donations totalling $510,140.49 in 2001 saying, “[We] concur that the [BC Liberal] party did not consistently report correct amounts for combined contributions… to the party and its candidates in the 2001 General Election…” As a result of our complaint Elections BC now has an automated online search engine to track political donations.
In 2005, Carole James tried to broaden discussion of campaign finance reform in BC by introducing a private members’ bill which banned corporate and union donations, imposed a $1,000 cap on personal donations and introduced a review of third party advertising limits. The Bill failed and little has been heard on the issue since.
Bringing accountability back into politics is essential in supporting the values of freedom and diversity in meaningful political speech. It is time that the true voters-people like you and I-had the right to determine the direction of political power.
I predict that 2010 will be the year that civil society groups begin to organize to modernize BC’s campaign finance laws and bring them up to the standard of other provinces and the Federal government.
Previous Questions for 2010
Will BC prioritize green jobs and energy conservation or simply more subsidies to oil and gas companies?