NEWS
05/26/2016 15:01 EDT | Updated 05/27/2017 01:12 EDT

Options available for reporting political donations: B.C. electoral officer

VICTORIA — British Columbia's chief electoral officer is recommending three options for revamping how political contributions are reported amid criticism aimed at Premier Christy Clark over high-priced fundraising events.

Keith Archer of Elections BC said in a report released Wednesday that one of the three options — requiring monthly or quarterly reporting — could be in place for political parties before next May's provincial election, if legislation is passed during a fall session of the house.

Attorney General Suzanne Anton asked Archer last month to review how contributions are reported following complaints to the province's conflict commissioner alleging that Clark received what amounted to gifts when people paid thousands of dollars to attend fundraising events with exclusive access to her.

B.C.'s conflict commissioner Paul Fraser cleared Clark of the alleged conflict, concluding the money was received by the B.C. Liberal Party and did not amount to a "private interest" for the premier.

Politicians and registered constituency associations are currently required to file annual reports on all contributions they receive totalling $250 or more, while candidates and leadership contestants must file within 90 days of a vote.

Contributions include money, or goods or services provided without compensation, and could include memberships fees, a forgiven loan or debt, or tickets to a fundraising function.

The three options for change outlined in Archer's report included switching reporting political contributions to a monthly or quarterly basis, to within 10 days or within 24 to 48 hours.

Monthly or quarterly reporting would require an extra $100,000 in operating costs, the report said. It could be in place for political parties before the election.

The only other Canadian province requiring frequent disclosure is Ontario, where political parties and leadership contestants must report contributions of money over $100 to Elections Ontario within 10 business days.

Implementing similar rules in B.C. would require an additional $150,000 a year for Elections BC's operating costs, and it would take between 15 and 21 months after the legislation was approved for the changes to go into effect, Archer's report said.

He said switching to "real-time disclosure," within 24 to 48 hours of a contribution would make B.C. a leader in North America, and provide the most transparency of the three options.

Real-time disclosure would cost Elections BC an additional $150,000 a year and would take between 15 and 21 months to implement after legislation was approved, the report said.

A statement from Anton said the government will review the report before deciding on next steps.

The B.C. New Democrats didn't return a request for comment.