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Premier Christy Clark walks back to her office following a press conference in Victoria this week. (Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail)
Premier Christy Clark walks back to her office following a press conference in Victoria this week. (Chad Hipolito/The Globe and Mail)

Globe editorial

B.C. Liberals should end unethical payments to Premier Clark Add to ...

Christy Clark, the Liberal Premier of British Columbia, cannot think of a single reason why she shouldn’t have accepted $277,000 in payments from her party in the past five years. But we can think of one: It’s unethical.

Ms. Clark is an elected official who is paid $195,500 annually, plus living allowances and other perks, by the people of her province to lead the government. Voters expect her to work in good faith and represent their interests without favour.

But Ms. Clark has a second well-paying employer – the Liberal Party. The party she leads gave her $50,000 in 2015 and the same amount this year.

It is perfectly fine for the Premier to serve as head of government and to also campaign for her party and help it raise funds. But having dual responsibilities is different from having dual incomes.

It would be illegal, for instance, for Premier Clark to accept a second salary from a major oil and gas company or a real estate developer. But, in essence, she is doing just that.

B.C. law allows political parties to accept unlimited donations from corporations, unions and individuals. Last year, the Liberals raised $5.3-million from corporations in the oil and gas industry, in real-estate development and sales, in forestry, and so on. They also took in $3.4-million in large individual donations, some well into five figures. Very few of the party’s donors gave $250 or less, the kinds of amounts average people can manage.

Ms. Clark has attended party fundraisers at which donors are promised intimate access to her in exchange for $10,000 and more. It is a serious breach of ethics for parties to trade access to politicians for cash. The breach becomes even more egregious when some of the cash is transferred to the Premier.

Premier Clark is effectively being paid by parties seeking her favour. The disclosure documents showing the source of Liberal Party donations make this an indisputable fact. Filtering the money through the party does not create a reliable or credible distance between the donors and the Premier.

Virtually all the other provinces know this is unacceptable. They prohibit legislators from accepting money from political parties, or simply avoid the practice because it is so unsavoury. Ms. Clark and the B.C. Liberals should get with the times and do likewise.

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