‘B.C. has a best-government-money-can-buy political donations system’: Democracy Watch

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In the run-up to the May 9 provincial election, the B.C. Liberals are counting on big money to help bring them a win, despite Premier Christy Clark’s repeated claims to the contrary.

Clark has steadfastly defended her province’s political donation system, which has no limit on donation size and permits people who don’t live in B.C. — and even those who don’t live in Canada — to donate. The Western province is a significant outlier compared with the rest of Canada. The federal government and most other provinces have strict donation caps and only allow Canadians to contribute.

A National Post analysis of B.C. political donations from 2005 to 2017 found that 25.12 per cent of donations to the Liberal party come from those giving $20,000 or more. Over half of all money raised by the Liberals, or 54.05 per cent, comes from donations over $5,000. During a similar period (2005 to 2016), 19.59 per cent of the B.C. NDP’s money came from donations over $20,000, and 30.45 per cent came from donations over $5,000.

B.C. has a best-government-money-can-buy political donations system that violates the key democratic principle of one-person, one-vote

The NDP’s largest donations come from unions. The biggest donor was the B.C. Government and Services Employees Union, which gave $2.18 million between 2005 to 2015, followed by United Steelworkers at $1.67 million.

“B.C. has a best-government-money-can-buy political donations system that violates the key democratic principle of one-person, one-vote, because it allows businesses, unions and other interest groups, and wealthy individuals, even from other countries, to make donations that are much larger than an average voter can afford,” said Duff Conacher, co-founder of the advocacy group Democracy Watch, which has repeatedly challenged the Liberal’s fundraising practices in court.

In contrast with Clark, NDP leader John Horgan has promised to ban union and corporate donations if he wins the province’s May 9 election. If those donations are eliminated it would help the NDP level the playing field: they may rely on unions for their money, but the amount that corporations give to the Liberals is significantly higher.