Barring a last-minute change of heart, the reform of British Columbia’s political financing rules that Premier Christy Clark is scheduled to introduce on Monday will be of no consequence.
Ms. Clark is expected to bring forward modest rule changes. But she is not ending the egregious pay-to-play culture of B.C. politics. She’s not banning donations from corporations and unions, or setting limits on the size of individual donations.
We know this because she said so on Wednesday. We also know this because the BC Liberals, her party, have become addicted to the money that is sluiced into their coffers every year by supplicant corporations, lobbyists and business owners. Last year alone, the governing party collected $12-million – a massive sum that far outstrips the logical financial needs of a political party operating in a province of under 5-million people.
Ms. Clark’s so-called reform is expected to include a new requirement for parties to disclose donations in “real time.” The Liberals already do something akin to that; its donations are posted on the party website 10 days after they are deposited. Under the current rules, parties can wait to disclose all their donations in their annual report to Elections BC.
Big deal. What will remain is a situation where companies seeking government contracts, approvals or tax breaks can give unlimited sums of money to the governing party. Lobbyists in the province have told The Globe and Mail they feel they need to donate, or their entreaties on behalf of their clients will be ignored.
The Liberals defend this world-class conflict of interest by arguing on their website that most of their donors are grassroots supporters who just want to “chip in to help us engage with voters.” But the truth is that corporate donors give roughly $2 for every $1 that comes from individuals, and many of those individuals are business owners or, as a Globe investigation discovered, paid lobbyists giving on behalf of their clients.
Coupled with the province’s near limitless spending caps during the pre-campaign and campaign periods – it was $18.2 million per party in the 2013 general election, according to IntegrityBC – and there is little doubt about the degree to which money is influencing B.C. politics.
Monday’s announcement will be window dressing. For all it will likely do to clean up B.C. politics, Ms. Clark should just skip it.Report Typo/Error
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