An exchange in the B.C. Legislature on Tuesday between Liberal MLA Mike de Jong and Premier John Horgan on an NDP government plan to set new rules for election-campaign financing:
M. de Jong: My question today begins with a quote. For the quote, I had to search way back — well, way back earlier this year.
The quote begins with a question from a reporter, Mr. Woodford, posing a question to the now Premier. He wasn’t the Premier then, and I’m learning that that distinction is becoming important, actually. “When you table your legislation, just to be clear, there is going to be nothing in there about, sort of, taxpayers having to fund political parties?”
The reply from the now Premier: “Yeah, that is correct. That’s what we said in the past, that’s what we’ll say in February, and that’s what we’re going to do after the May election, when we form government.” Clear words from the now Premier.
I can think of all sorts of reasons why forcing B.C. taxpayers to fund political parties is a bad idea. I’ll begin with this one: because the Premier gave his word that they wouldn’t have to.
So my question to the Premier is: why is he breaking his repeated promise and forcing British Columbians to fund, through their taxes, political parties that they have no interest or no desire to support?
Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the member for his question. He will know that we have legislation before this House that will…. After 16 years and after six private members’ bills by those who are now on this side of the House, we will be banning union and corporate donations in British Columbia.
We will be putting a cap on individual contributions to political parties in British Columbia. We’re going to end cash-for-access deals like the former government used to use. And we’re going to make sure….
Hon. J. Horgan: We’re going to put people back in the centre of our politics. That’s what the people of British Columbia want, and that’s what we’re doing.
M. de Jong: Well, if that’s the plan, the Premier better send a memo in really big print to his Minister of Citizens’ Services so she and all of her friends of ill repute understand exactly what the new rules of the game are.
Mr. Speaker: Members, please.
M. de Jong: Another quote, this time to one Mr. Ferraby. Again, the now Premier: “At no time have I said that I prefer to make public dollars responsible for political parties — at no time. Let me be perfectly clear — no time.”
Look, a simple question. I think that British Columbians actually do want to know this. Was it the Premier’s idea to break his word? Clearly, he has done that. Was it the Premier’s idea to break his word, or was this forced upon him by the head of his wholly owned subsidiary down at the other end of the hall here? British Columbians want to know. Did he break the word on his own, or was it forced upon him by members of the Green Party?
Hon. J. Horgan: What British Columbians now know is that big money will no longer influence the decisions of their government. What British Columbians now know is that the people on that side of the House, who depended on a handful of contributions…
Mr. Speaker: Members. Order, please.
Hon. J. Horgan: …that made up millions and millions of dollars of their political coffers, is no longer going to happen. That’s what British Columbians asked for, and that’s what they’re going to get.
Mr. Speaker: House Leader for the official opposition on a supplemental.
M. de Jong: What British Columbians now know is that for the majority who would have no interest — no interest whatsoever — in providing any of their hard-earned money to the NDP, the Premier has removed that option and is going to use the tax system to dip into their pockets and force them to support political parties that they don’t want to support.
I have heard members of the opposition describe this as a transitional measure. If anyone thinks that after five years, the NDP and Green Party are going to turn off the tap on public funding of political parties, I’ve got a bridge in Richmond that I’d like to sell them.
Mr. Speaker: Member, your question, please.
M. de Jong: Actually, thanks to the NDP, I don’t have a bridge in Richmond to sell them, but that’s another matter.
The question, again, to the Premier. It’s time he came clean. I understand he didn’t want to talk to anyone yesterday at the press conference, didn’t want to take any questions. This is the people’s House. This is where people deserve answers.
Was it his idea to break his word to British Columbians and force them to fund political parties, or was the decision forced upon him by members of the subsidiary?
Hon. J. Horgan: I’m pleased to see that the Opposition House Leader is adapting to his role as class clown, but what the public wants to know…. What the public will hear in this House is a reasoned debate about a piece of legislation that that side of the House refused to talk about for 16 years.
The member suggested that…
Mr. Speaker: Members, please.
Hon. J. Horgan: …five years from now, there will continue to be a majority on this side of the House. I welcome that day coming, but this legislation is not what the Liberals want it to be. There is a transition fund that goes down year after year, and, after four years, no longer exists.
Source: BC Hansard.