COLUMN: We need to ban big money from politics

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With 2017 settling in, topping news and Facebook discussions is the US election. Big changes down south, and many are worried about what the future will bring. Mass rallies for human rights while the new US President acts swiftly to dismantle President Obama’s Affordable Care Act and approve the previously rejected Keystone and Dakota pipelines.

Yet amidst all this focus on American politics, the New York Times looked to BC for what they saw as a scandalous situation. The headline read “The wild west of Canadian political cash.” The story focused on British Columbia’s horribly lax political donation laws and how Premier Christy Clark personally benefits from $50,000 a year funded by rich donors to her party.

The BC Liberal Deputy Premier called the story laughable. But the New York Times reporter, Dan Levin, pointed out that this isn’t funny. In the US, Christy Clark’s stipend isn’t allowed and would be called bribery. Levin went on to say that if BC’s access for cash went on in Russia or China, we’d call it corruption, but here BC Liberals call it legal because their laws make it so.

Most Canadian provinces and the federal government have increased transparency and removed big money from politics. Since 2005, BC legislators have had several occasions to do the same. New Democrats first introduced legislation to ban big money from BC politics in 2005. The governing BC Liberals ignored the bill, and have ignored it ever since despite us regularly putting it forward for debate.

I guess if Christy Clark can charge corporations $20,000 for a seat next to her at a political fundraiser, and top out the year with $7.9million from rich corporations, the laws are working for her party and their expensive attack ads, so no incentive to change. And let’s be clear, disclosing who’s donating more frequently, as Ms. Clark proposes, than the mandatory annual requirement isn’t a change that puts people’s interests first. It just lets everyone know sooner what they were already going to find out –the rich can pay for access to the BC Liberals and at the least get tax breaks and in return.

When I was in local government, the then BC Liberal MLA for Nelson-Creston had a Minister in town available to meet with us. Upon arrival, we learned that we not only had to pay, but it was a fundraiser for the BC Liberals. Your local BC Liberal MLA made your local government representatives pay his party to speak with a Minister visiting the area. That’s just one of the many reasons the laws need to change.

Since 2005, New Democrats have proposed changes that allow everyone to do better, that make the electoral process and resulting government more fair and transparent regardless of which political party governs. Leadership is about giving everyone the opportunity to do better and creating sustainable positive changes. It is not about self-righteousness, false pretenses or alternative facts. I’m proud to stand with other MLAs who prioritize changing the laws so that there is no question that the people are first priority in government.

In just a few weeks, New Democrat Leader John Horgan will once again give all BC MLAs the chance to support meaningful change by banning big money from politics in time for this Spring’s election. Once again, we will put forward a bill that will require all of us to operate by the same rules and get in line with most other Canadian jurisdictions. I hope Ms. Clark will give us the chance to debate and vote on this bill. If not, you are her boss and you get to have final say May 9.