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IN THE LEDGE – ‘They don’t want to get big money out of politics’

Opposition House Leader Mike de Jong in the Ledge on Wednesday.

An exchange in the B.C. Legislature on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017 between Opposition House Leader Mike de Jong and Premier John Horgan on campaign finance reform:

M. de Jong: Interesting couple of days, Mr. Speaker. The Premier made a promise. He promised British Columbians that campaign finance reform would not include forcing people to fund political parties through their tax dollars. He made the promise repeatedly, and he actually ridiculed anyone that dared to question the sincerity of his promise. Now he’s broken his promise; he’s broken his word.

I asked myself: I wonder how the Premier as opposition leader would have responded to that kind of conduct. The opposition leader from Juan de Fuca — how would his response be different from the Premier from Juan de Fuca? The question is not a complicated one. Will the Premier today, in light of what he has done, what he has chosen to do, along with his colleagues, stand and apologize to British Columbians who took him at his word when he said that he wasn’t going to force British Columbians to pay and subsidize political parties in this province?

Hon. J. Horgan: I thank the Opposition House Leader for his question. He knows that there’s a bill before the House. We’ll all have an opportunity for reasoned debate about the merits of that bill in the days ahead. But I want to focus in on the crux of the issue, and that is getting big money out of politics. We made a commitment that the first order….

Interjections.

Hon. J. Horgan: I appreciate that the members are reluctant to see big money leave, because last year they raised $12½ million. Half of that money came from 185 donors — six million bucks. Six million bucks from 185 people went into the coffers of the B.C. Liberal Party. That’s why the public, that’s why this Legislature and that’s why those on this side of the House want to eliminate big money and the negative influence it has.

There is a transition funding arrangement that will disappear at the end of this parliament, and it will cost us less than the member across the way spent on partisan advertising in the lead-up to the last election.

Mr. Speaker: House Leader for the Official Opposition on a supplemental.

M. de Jong: I think the best indication that government arrogance is taking over from common decency is when a Premier stands up….

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Members, if I may take a minute and remind the House of the long-standing and necessarily parliamentary practice of being respectful towards each other during debate. We all insist on this, and I know the public expects nothing less.

M. de Jong: When a Premier stands up and dismisses out of hand the significance of fundamentally breaking a clear promise that has been made…. Sadly, the Premier is still not being forthright with British Columbians, and we just heard it again a moment ago.

The Premier insists on characterizing this as a temporary subsidy. It is clearly not that. Millions of dollars are embedded permanently and will flow from the taxpayers to political parties, and whereas the Premier could have ensured that it was a temporary measure, instead, he and his colleagues chose to do the opposite and create a mechanism by which these billions and millions of dollars in subsidy will continue in perpetuity. We’re talking about upwards of $38 million in the first round.

Will the Premier at least today…. If he refuses to apologize, if he refuses to abide by that standard that he would have set as Leader of the Opposition, will he at least be honest with British Columbians and acknowledge that there is nothing temporary about a measure that, statutorily, is bound to continue year after year and will remove from British Columbians the basic right to choose whether or not they want to make a political contribution?

Hon. J. Horgan: Mr. Speaker, 185 donors, a handful more people than are in this building right now, gave $6.5 million to the B.C. Liberal Party last year. That’s why they don’t want to get big money out of politics. That’s why they resist this change.

The legislation before the House is the first opportunity for those who were elected after May to come together and have a genuine debate, a real debate about the importance of getting big money out of politics.

I welcome any amendments the member may bring forward, but the key issue here is that the people of British Columbia are tired of deep pockets running the government of B.C. They want people in the centre of their politics. This legislation does that.

Mr. Speaker: House Leader for the official opposition on a second supplemental.

M. de Jong: And with surprising speed, the public of British Columbia have grown tired of a Premier who refuses to keep his word.

It has not taken long for the traditional ideological approach of the NDP to reveal itself in these matters. People will not have a choice. The NDP will tell people that they must make contributions politically. They will no longer have that choice.

The Premier repeatedly stated otherwise. He stated that in the run-up to the campaign. He stated it during the campaign. Presumably, he stated it because he thought it was important and mattered to British Columbians. Presumably, he made that promise repeatedly because he thought it was of consequence and significance, and then he broke his word.

One last time for me. Will the Premier do the decent thing and stand up in this House and stop trying to deflect the fact that he has broken his promise and, instead, apologize for that very fact?

Hon. J. Horgan: This legislation transforms politics in British Columbia. It has ended what was a stain on B.C. politics. The Wild West of fundraising is coming an end. Now, I appreciate those on that side of the House who are revving up their leadership campaigns are concerned about that. But maybe the good news for those who don’t have the deep pockets like the member from Quilchena…. Maybe the good news for them is they’ll engage with people, and when they do that, they’ll find out that what really matters to people is that their politics is cleared from the influence of big pockets.

Interjections.

Mr. Speaker: Members. Order, please.

Hon. J. Horgan: Every jurisdiction in Canada but Quebec has a lower limit than British Columbia. We have among the lowest in the country now. Furthermore, Quebec, Ontario, all the Maritimes and Manitoba have permanent allotments to political parties. We will not. It will end at the end of this term, and it’s up to the next parliament to proceed from there.

Source: BC Hansard, draft.

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About Mel Rothenburger (5078 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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