Walking the Talk on Campaign Finance Reform

It’s time to walk the talk. If the federaland provincial politicians really support campaign financial reform, theyshould be setting the example by voluntarily refusing donations from non-voterssuch as corporations and unions.

In an effort to clean up Canadianpolitics (or win some political brownie points) provincial NDP and federal Conservativeleaders both recently proposed progressive legislation that would ban big moneyfrom politics.

Carole James tried to broaden discussion of campaignfinance reform in BC by introducing a privatemembers’ bill which banns corporate and union donations to politicalparties, imposes a $1000 cap on personal donations and introduces a review of third party advertising limits.

Stephen Harper’s Federal Accountability Act puts forwardsimilar rules in order to giveCanadians a new vision, a plan torenew faith in government, to instill a culture of accountability…” Mr. Harper’sversion contains no provision related to third party advertising.

Its about time politicians addressed the role of money inpolitics. As reported by the Conservation Voters of BC in Democracy for Sale, BC lags behind five other provinces and thefederal government by having no cap on donations. In fact, “Every province except BC and Alberta has directpublic financing for candidates to level the playing field.

Nowthat the NDP has changed its affiliation with organized labour and will haveonly individual members, Carole James should take the high road and commit theNDP to voluntarily refusing to take any donations from non-voters such asunions and corporations.  

It’sunderstandable that Gordon Campbell doesn’t support Carole James’ effort to introducecampaign finance reform. The BC Liberals have out-fundraised Ms. James’ party by $5 million, relying primarily oncorporate donations fueled by its corporate friendly policies. This expandedwar chest (which generated a $2.7 million surplus) no doubt helped the BC Liberalsgoing into the May 2005 elections.

Giventhe public outrage over Gomery and the sponsorship scandals, Campaign Finance Reform seems like a no-brainer. Given their funding advantage, the BC liberalsmay be hesitant to change the status quo.

But Matt Price from the Conservation Votersof BC makes a few good points. Wouldn’t it be beneficial for the BC Liberals tobe in the driver’s seat when Campaign Finance Reform finally goes through? Thiswould allow them to protect their interests in limiting third party donations.

Andfor the NDP, voluntarily denying corporate and union donations would take awaythe opponent’s best attack line. Note how the BC Liberals attacked Ms. Jamesfor caving to unions in retracting her support for MLA pay hikes.

Manypeople talk the talk, but few walk it. Bringing accountability back intopolitics is essential in supporting the values of freedom and diversity inmeaningful political speech.

Isn’tit time that the true voters-you and I-had the right to determine the directionof political power?  

Ithink it is. If you do, write or call both Carole James and Gordon Campbell todemand they refuse all donations from non-voters, and pass legislation thatkeeps money from unions and corporation out of the political process.

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