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B.C. Liberals post donations online; party raised $12.5-million in 2016

B.C. Premier Christy Clark speaks during a news conference in Vancouver on June 29, 2016.

John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

The B.C. Liberals, criticized for a lack of disclosure on who is donating to the party, have followed through on a commitment to post donations on the web – something they plan to do within 10 business days of deposits, in a measure that comes ahead of the May provincial election.

The party began its postings on Friday as the opposition NDP dismissed the measure as a "diversion" to distract from the government's opposition to banning corporate and union donations – a measure the NDP says it will enact if elected this spring.

Both parties are in a tough political fight. The Liberals are attempting to win a fifth consecutive election since taking office in 2001. However, the NDP, mindful of its surprise defeat in the 2013 election when may polls had the party ahead in public support, are trying to draw lessons from that campaign.

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The Liberals released their first set of 2017 donations as well as all donations from 2016. The party raised about $450,000 in the first 12 days of January. Last year shows the Liberals raised a total of about $12.5-million – $4.5-million of that from individuals and $7.9-million in corporate donations. The 2016 total comes ahead of the March 31 Elections BC reporting deadline.

In 2015, the party raised $3.3-million from individual donors and $6.5-million from corporations.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark promised more campaign-finance disclosure after stories in The Globe and Mail last spring revealed that part of her party's enhanced fundraising efforts ahead of the 2017 election included small, private gatherings with her where ticket prices reached $10,000 or more.

However, questions have been raised about the NDP's fundraising after a Nov. 24 resource-industry event at which attendees could pay $10,000 to dine with party Leader John Horgan. The party declined to identify attendees.

As the Liberals touted their measures on Friday, the NDP said it would not follow suit.

"The reason we don't plan to do it is because we don't think it's going to do anything to clean up politics," said MLA Jody Wickens, speaking for the party on the issue.

In a Friday interview, Ms. Wickens described the Liberal move as a "gimmick" that will do little to shed light on party fundraising in the province.

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"Instead of these type of diversions, what [Ms. Clark] should do is something real," said the member for Coquitlam-Burke Mountain MLA, That, Ms. Wickens said, would be a ban on corporate and union donations. The NDP plans to release a private member's bill enacting such a ban when the legislature sits again next month.

The B.C. government's aversion to campaign-finance reform comes as other provinces have acted on the issue.

Back in 2015, the then-new NDP government in Alberta banned corporate and union donations. Ontario's Liberal government has since enacted a similar ban, capped annual donations from individuals at $3,600 and also curtailed cash-for-access fundraising by elected officials and their top, political staff.

In B.C., the province's Chief Electoral Officer proposed reform options in May, but the government said more study was necessary before legislative changes could be enacted.

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