B.C. Liberal leadership candidates Andrew Wilkinson and Dianne Watts spar during a TV debate, Jan. 25, 2018. Watts joined most leadership candidates in calling for the party to accept additional public money. (Global TV)

‘Big money’ funding B.C. politics now mostly from taxpayers

Campaign targets $16 million and counting in ‘politician welfare’

B.C. Premier John Horgan still boasts about “taking big money out of politics” by banning corporate and union donations that traditionally fuelled elections in the province.

Now the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is reminding Horgan and his main rival, B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, that the source of big money has simply been switched to taxpayers.

“B.C. politicians are taking millions of dollars from taxpayers and they’re spending it on lawn signs, junk mail and attack ads for their political campaigns,” said Kris Sims, the CTF’s director for B.C. “This needs to stop. The B.C. government needs to scrap the per-vote politician welfare subsidy.”

In a new campaign announced Monday, the CTF is giving away free bumper stickers with the slogan, “STOP politician welfare!”)

The NDP campaigned to get corporate and union donations out of politics before the 2017 election, but made no mention of introducing a “temporary” subsidy for major parties calculated at $2.50 per vote received in 2017. The money is paid out to eligible parties twice a year by Elections B.C., which also administers the new rules limiting donations to $1,200 per eligible individual resident each year.

The B.C. Liberals denounced the public subsidy and voted against it, but their party has become the largest beneficiary. With the largest share of the 2017 popular vote, the B.C. Liberals collected $996,000 for their first instalment. The NDP collected $994,000 and the B.C. Greens collected $415,000 based on their 17 per cent of the popular vote.

The NDP legislation also included a provision for the parties to get half of their election-year expenses reimbursed by taxpayers. Sims estimates that will bring in an additional $11 million for the NDP, Greens and B.C. Liberals to share.

RELATED: Greens didn’t demand party subsidy, Weaver says

RELATED: Watts, Wilkinson say take subsidy, Stone says don’t

B.C. VIEWS COLUMN: Political parties loot public treasury

With more seats than the NDP government, the B.C. Liberals continue to take the lion’s share of what the CTF’s calculator currently identifies as $16.4 million divided between the three parties in the past two and a half years. It was billed as a temporary measure that Horgan promised would “disappear at the end of this parliament.” The next scheduled election is in the fall of 2021.

B.C. Liberal Kamloops-South Thompson MLA Todd Stone, now the party’s housing critic, was vocal about rejecting the taxpayer subsidy when he was running for the party leadership in 2018. Vancouver-Quilchena MLA Andrew Wilkinson, who eventually won the leadership narrowly against former Surrey mayor Dianne Watts, said he would take the initial subsidy and use it all to defeat the NDP-Green Party referendum to change B.C.’s voting system.


@tomfletcherbc
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