In the last few weeks there has been an outcry on the state of money and politics in this province. More specifically, the controversial fundraiser dinners, the lack of rules around corporate and union donations, the stipend paid to the premier from her party and the benefits received by the leader of the official opposition.
It is absolutely essential that we ban corporate and union donations to political parties in this province. Corporate and union donations, as well as large personal political donations, were all banned nationally in Canada in 2006. Yet in B.C. any person, union or corporation, from anywhere in the world, can donate as much as they’d like any time they want. We simply have no rules. This province is the wild west in terms of its lax rules for political donations.
Obviously this situation raises some major red flags in terms of how money can influence policies and government decisions. I’ve said it before, and I suspect I’ll say it again: Unions don’t vote; corporations don’t vote; only people vote. We need to restore confidence in our elected officials and one of the easiest ways to do that is to remove the perception that money is influencing our elected officials.
A recent poll by the Dogwood Initiative highlights that 86 per cent of British Columbians would support a ban on corporate and union donations before the next election. I fully support this idea and will continue to voice my support for removing all corporate and union donations from B.C.’s electoral system.
However, when it comes to a political leader being paid for partisan work by the party they represent, I don’t have quite the same concerns. I actually think it distracts from the bigger issue.
Present rules allow for a party to pay their leaders, or interim leaders, for the often substantial work they do. This work is more partisan in nature and, in my opinion, should not be getting bank rolled by the taxpayer.
It is those individuals who donate and belong to a political party who are the ones that should hold their party accountable – if they feel that a large leader stipend is unethical, they have the ability to make sure their party changes that policy.
Two weeks ago the conflict-of-interest commissioner ruled that the premier is not in a conflict of interest for receiving the stipend or the fundraisers she has hosted. We cannot let this issue distract us from the very real influence that corporate and union donations are having in B.C.
I have written about this issue more extensively on my website (www.andrewweavermla.ca) and if you have any concerns or questions please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Andrew Weaver is the MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head.