Christy Clark announced recently that IF she is re-elected she will form an "independent panel" to review the current policy in B.C. on political donations and make suggestions on how -- or if -- they need to change.
Does anyone out there actually believe that Clark and the B.C. Liberals are seriously considering changing the very rules that helped them raise $12 million just in this past year? Well, if you think this is an honest effort by the B.C. Liberals to make the playing field a little more level, let's look at the circumstances that pushed Clark to make this announcement.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark takes part in the First Minister's meeting in Ottawa, Dec. 9, 2016. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)
Big Money in politics has been a controversial discussion for some time -- although you won't hear a lot about it in the mainstream media. The NDP have brought forward bills that would end corporate and union donations and put a cap on the amount an individual can donate (something that is standard in most of Canada) not once, not twice but six times. An independent MLA has also brought forward a similar bill, all of which have been blocked and voted down by the B.C. Liberals.
Just last week a damning article was released by the Globe and Mail which dubbed the B.C. Liberals as one of the most corrupt governments in all of Canada. B.C. has the least amount of rules when it comes to donations, and the Liberals are currently under investigation for breaking one of the few rules we do have. According to the article, "lobbyists are routinely buying their way into B.C. political inner circles."
The rule that was allegedly broken is the one that ensures that when someone donates money under their name, they cant then turn around and be reimbursed by a company or corporation. In other words, all donations need to be accounted for by where and who they come from. Pretty standard, you would assume.
It's very important to realize that any options or changes this independent panel puts forward are in absolutely no way binding.
Then a few days ago Elections BC -- the organization handling the investigation -- announced they were handing it over to the RCMP, citing concerns over the fast-approaching provincial elections and lack of manpower. Some people have claimed this is almost unheard of and not the normal procedure -- but, then again, we are clearly in a different realm when it comes to political donations here in B.C.
It is clear that this announcement stems from the mounting pressure on the B.C. Liberals and not the actual desire to change the system, because as I have pointed out they have had numerous opportunities to do so and voted against any changes.
Now comes the even bigger question: If the B.C. Liberals manage to win again in May, how likely is it that they would actually change their policies on political donations?
Let's put aside the fact that under the current rules the B.C. Liberals have a very clear and hefty advantage over the other parties, and that Clark herself has actually been paid a big salary top-up, in part for her fundraising efforts.
Christy Clark on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, March 31, 2014. (Photo: Chris Wattie/Reuters)
It's very important to realize that any options or changes this independent panel puts forward are in absolutely no way binding -- in other words, there is nothing stopping Clark and the Liberals from ignoring their recommendations. If you don't believe that they would do that after going through so much trouble of putting together the panel, here is a short list of all the recommendations that Clark and the Liberals have ignored from her own panels or committees:
Poverty reduction plan
Despite having one of the worst child poverty rates in Canada and being the only province without a poverty reduction plan, Clark has ignored multiple calls for such a plan for years.
Clark commissioned her own panel to study climate change and how we could move forward here in B.C. Then she ignored every recommendation they gave her. It's worth noting that the B.C. NDP have put forward a plan that addresses all of the recommendations.
Raise the minimum wage to $15
Recommended during the last budget, which she ignored. This is also something the B.C. NDP has made part of their campaign.
A more affordable child care program
A $10-a-day program was recommended in the last budget, then ignored. And you guessed it, this is yet another aspect of the NDP's campaign.
Please tell me why we should believe that Clark would listen or take action this time?
A few other things recommended during the budget consultations: increase funding to public education; to establish clear rules to restrict or end partisan ads (particularly ones funded by public dollars); a review of welfare rates; a reinvestment in home and community support for seniors; multiple recommendations for addressing the need for more affordable housing; and eliminating the MSP premium and other aspects to make taxes more fair.
ALL of these have been recommended by "impartial or independent panels" and every single one has been ignored by Clark and the B.C. Liberals. Please tell me why we should believe that Clark would listen or take action this time, especially when it could directly affect the money coming into her own pocket.
Clearly, Clark is feeling the pressure and after waiting for the donations scandal to blow over she decided that she needed to make somewhat of an attempt to make it look like she may possibly change the rules if she is elected -- at some point down the road.
It's time to end Big Money in politics and get back to listening to what citizens want, not what corporations want. Frankly, Clark's plan just isn't good enough.
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