A recent CBC article outlined how BC is the ‘wild west’ of political financing, illustrated by the listing of the top donors to all major parties. You will not be surprised to see Teck as the largest donor to the BC Liberals and the Government Employee’s union as the top donor to the NDP over the last decade. Both gave over $2 million each to the Liberals and NDP respectively.
The toxicity of this unregulated and free for all system is problematic in that it creates an environment that breeds corruption and influence peddling. This creates a rift between the ruling government and the overall populace. Would you and Don Lindsay, CEO of Teck, or Stephanie Smith, the President of the BC GEU, be treated the same, even if each of you wanted action on the same issue?
A study released by Princeton that tracked the influence of money in the US political system, which is very close to how we regulate donations, showed that the 1800 pieces of legislation passed though the federal government from 1980 to 2002, and found that ‘economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.’ (https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/mgilens/files/gilens_and_page_2014_-testing_theories_of_american_politics.doc.pdf)
Further, another article in The Hill highlights an expose from 60 Minutes where we find politicians have to spend more time fundraising than working for their constituents. The average member of congress has to raise $18,000 a day to fund a re-election.
From school funding, to heath care, to infrastructure and so on, the tendrils of corruption through legalized bribery permeates a government skewing rules, regulations and contracts back to those who have bought their representative.
That is the same style of politics that we are moving towards in BC without removing these threats to our democracy.
How much does your MLA have to raise to stay in office, and how much time are they spending on that, rather than sitting in the legislature in Victoria or working in their riding offices?
In every town hall, in every riding, the question should be asked if each candidate will have their party introduce new campaign spending rules that eliminate all corporate and union donations, limit the individual donations from individuals or estates, and lastly institute a public financing of elections based on popular support from prior elections.
This is not a left or right issue, or a liberal vs conservative issue, it is about ensuring that those who represent us, do just that, represent us. If they answer that they do not believe that there should be changes, we will know that they are open to corruption and bribery, and no candidate of any political stripe should be allowed to hold office if they are.