Peace Region MLAs not impressed about taxpayer costs under NDP finance reform bill

Premier John Horgan and Green Party leader Andrew Weaver at a press conference announcing changes to provincial election campaign finance rules. Photo by Government of BC

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Peace Region’s two BC Liberal MLAs say they’re not impressed about the NDP’s apparent about-face when it comes to having taxpayers foot the bill for changes to provincial political financing rules.

In the changes that were announced in the Election Amendment Act, 2017, the NDP government proposed that political parties in B.C. would receive an annual allowance that would be paid for by taxpayers as a transition to the new fundraising model. To qualify, parties must receive at least 2 percent of provincewide vote, or at least 5 percent of the total votes in ridings where they ran a candidate. The per-vote allowance would decrease over the next five years, from $2.50/vote in 2018 to $1.75/vote in 2022.

A special committee of the legislative assembly would be appointed to review whether the allowance should be continued, and if so, at what rate and for how long. If no action were to taken by the special committee and no amendments are made to the act, the annual allowance would expire in 2022.

The proposed changes also mean that parties and candidates would receive a 50 percent reimbursement for election expenses. That proposed threshold would be higher, with parties and candidates needing to receive at least 10 percent of the vote provincewide vote or in their electoral district respectively.

Peace River North MLA Dan Davies expressed outrage at the prospect of taxpayers being on the hook to support political parties in the province. Davies said that though both the BC Liberals and the NDP would receive nearly the exact same amount of money under the proposed legislatation, the idea that taxpayers are paying for politics is not right. “When I fundraise in my riding locally, I’m honoured that people come to me and support what I am doing, and want to contribute to me on their own bill. I truly believe that that’s the way it should be.”

Peace River South MLA Mike Bernier also expressed opposition to the changes, saying that the section on parties receiving supplements from the government caught him off guard. Bernier pointed out that Premier John Horgan had campaigned on bringing in campaign finance reform that would not include any taxpayer-supported costs. Horgan actually confirmed to CKNL News Director Shane Woodford in a February interview that there would be no cost to taxpayers.

The two MLAs say the they and their party would be doing all that they could to oppose the changes that would increase costs to taxpayers.

With files from CKNL Kamloops.

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