Opinion Column

Donations will always be milked in politics

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark is introduced before speaking at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon at the Hilton Toronto hotel on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. (Matthew Sherwood for Postmedia Network)

Former British Columbia premier Christy Clark is introduced before speaking at an Economic Club of Canada luncheon at the Hilton Toronto hotel on Monday, Dec. 8, 2014. (Matthew Sherwood for Postmedia Network)

“Money is the mother's milk of politics.” - Ex-California State Treasurer Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh

British Columbia will finally end corporate, union and foreign political donations after the B.C. Liberals allowed the province to become the “wild west of political cash,” according to The New York Times.

It’s one of many reasons why form premier Christy Clark lost voters’ confidence – her private dinners at up to $20,000 per head and overwhelming corporate funding were simply offensive pay-for-play politics.

In opposition, the B.C. New Democratic Party introduced legislation to ban all but individual contributions six times – but the B.C. Liberals were cashing too many humongous cheques to consider it.

However, even when only individual donations are allowed and annual amounts capped, money will still be essential to all political parties’ operations – and the pressure to replace lost corporate and union contributions will be enormous.

The B.C. Liberals will be desperate, as Elections B.C. reported they collected $13.1 million in 2016 – with 59% from corporations and 0.1% from unions. The B.C. NDP raised less than half that at $6.2 million – with 28% from unions and 9% from business.

The B.C. Green Party raised $757,268 in 2016 with $4,900 from corporations and $200 from unions. The party stopped taking such donations in September 2016.

But now long overdue political financing reform legislation will come from the NDP in September.

Last week Green leader Andrew Weaver got “teed off” about a $500 per person fundraising golf game NDP Premier John Horgan is hosting, saying it’s “quite outrageous”.

But Weaver’s party admitted during the election it approached four people requesting individual donations totalling $30,000 and got $20,000 from one contributor whose family is in the industry.

It points out that the only way to reform political financing is to bring in clear laws restricting donations to individuals in B.C. and with a reasonable annual limit.

And until then, the B.C. NDP would be absolutely crazy to bring a knife to a gunfight with the corporately well-funded B.C. Liberals.

So long as politicians need lots of money to run their operations and election campaigns, the mother’s milk of politics will continue to flow freely – and when corporate and union donations are completely stopped, individuals will be milked for dollars even more.

Bill Tieleman is a former NDP strategist. Read his blog at billtieleman.blogspot.com. Twitter: @BillTieleman