VICTORIA – British Columbia’s Liberals say they are now ready to take big money out of politics after rejecting calls for political fundraising reform for more than a decade.
Attorney General Andrew Wilkinson said the government’s throne speech Thursday will include a plan to end corporate and union donations to political parties after it became apparent during last month’s election campaign that voters support the change.
“During the election campaign, all of us had the opportunity to hear directly from voters,” Wilkinson said Monday. “We’re reflecting the sentiment of British Columbians that it’s time to change the way political parties are financed.”
Before the election, the Liberals promised an independent panel that would report to the legislature on political fundraising, but Wilkinson said the government decided that process was “too slow.”
The Liberal party received more than $13 million in donations last year and was criticized for holding exclusive fundraising events where donors paid sums of up to $20,000 to attend dinners with Premier Christy Clark or her cabinet ministers.
The New Democrats received $6.2 million.
A special prosecutor was appointed days before the start of the campaign to help the RCMP in its investigation of possible Election Act violations over political donations to both major parties.
Wilkinson said the Liberals are calling on the Greens and the NDP to support the ban in the legislature so the new law can be implemented quickly.
The Liberals were relegated to a minority government with 43 seats in the 87-seat legislature.
The NDP and Greens, who both support fundraising reform, signed an agreement to defeat the Liberals in a confidence vote in the days after the throne speech, clearing the way for the New Democrats to form a minority government.
Selina Robinson, the NDP’s mental health and addictions critic, said the Liberals are trying to hold onto power and can’t be trusted.
“I just don’t believe them,” she said. “It’s like an epiphany suddenly hit them two weeks ago.”
The NDP has introduced six private members bills since 2005 calling for a ban on union and corporate donations to political parties, but the Liberals rejected each bill.
Green Leader Andrew Weaver could not be immediately reached for comment but his press secretary, Jillian Oliver, said the Greens will consider supporting solid legislation from the NDP or the Liberals.
Liberal party spokesman Emile Scheffel said in a statement Monday the Liberals recently stopped their pre-election policy of publicly disclosing party donations online.
“The media and public had the opportunity to see who contributed to our party, and how much, during the pre-writ period and the election campaign,” said Scheffel. “Unfortunately, they won’t know who funded the B.C. NDP or Green party campaigns until election financing reports are made public by Elections BC in August.”
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version misspelled Selina Robinson’s name.