There was a lot of controversy leading up this month’s BC provincial election surrounding Bill 42,  which was designed to limit third party election spending in the 88 days prior to elections. It has since been struck down by the BC Supreme Court.

The idea for Bill 42 being that third parties with deep pockets should be limited in their ability to sway election discourse and results through ad blitzes etc.

The argument against Bill 42 being that it unjustly gags freedom of expression.

I personally agree with the concept of Bill 42 IF such third party spending limits are accompanied by limits on political donations; I don’t think you can legitimately curb one form of influence without dealing with the other.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the BC Liberals introduced Bill 42 without accompanying legislation to limit personal and corporate political donations, as their financial base is more likely to write cheques than take out political ads.

As a notable example, major oil and gas pipeline companies in BC have donated over $126,000 exclusively to the Liberals since 2005.

Pipeline Company Total Political Donations (2005-present) Party
Enbridge $49,990 BC Liberals
Kinder Morgan $10,888 BC Liberals
Pembina Pipeline Corp. $2,392 BC Liberals
Spectra $6,670 BC Liberals
TransCanada $50,901 BC Liberals
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association $5,400 BC Liberals
Total $126,241 BC Liberals

Table compiled from Elections BC’s Political Contribution Database 

The problem with large political donations is that they create an incentive for the receiving party to push for or implement measures that are favorable to the generous donor.

Of course, our politicians will never acknowledge an influence of that incentive on their conduct or decisions; and proving the influence of large donations on specific conduct is virtually impossible in most circumstances.

Thus, the public is left to trust that our politicians are driven by the goodness of their hearts, the fire of their ideals, and discipline of their rational intellect.

For certain types of people I’m sure that’s true. For others I’m sure it’s not. The influence of big donations can be much more complicated than ‘I’ll pay you X, you give me Y’, and I would bet that many under the influence of these donations don’t even realize it, or refuse to acknowledge it.

I’d like to take the guessing out.

Companies proposing ‘Energy Corridor’ projects have donated over $60,000 to the Liberals

I’d prefer it if I knew that Gordon Campbell’s  enthusiasm for a pipeline ‘Energy Corridor’ between Alberta and BC’s north coast (see pg. 45 of their Election Platform, contradictory to his leadership on climate change) has everything to do with independent and rational consideration by himself and the party, and nothing to do with the over $60,000 received from the companies whose projects form the heart of the concept.

British Columbians deserve equal opportunity to participate in public life. That should include BOTH third party spending limits and limits on political donations.