What follows is a summary of the major concerns about the current B.C. election donations laws, followed by our latest news articles on the issue of B.C. political donations.
Overview of BC Political Donations Laws
Under British Columbia's Election Act, all registered political parties in British Columbia are required to file an annual financial report by March 31st of each year, which dicloses donations received in the previous year. You can find the database of these political donation reports here.
Unlike nearly everywhere else in Canada, under British Columbia's Elections Act there is no limit on the amount an individual, organization or corporation can contribute to a political party in a given year.
For instance, under Canada's Elections Act, which regulates political donations for federal parties (i.e. Liberal of Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada), an individual is only allowed to donate up to $1,525 in any given year in the form of cash contributions, loans and loan guarantees. Corporations and foreign entities are strictly prohibited from making donations to a federal political party.
In British Columbia, not only are there no limits on the amount that can be donated to a political party, but parties are also allowed to accept donations from corporations and foreign entities. According to a 2016 column by the Vancouver Sun reporter Douglas Todd:
“B.C. is one of the few jurisdictions in the world that welcomes political donations from foreign individuals and corporations.”
This subject has become a major issue over the past few years and will likely be a major one during the 2017 B.C. provincial election. A poll by Insights West in April 2016 found 86 per cent of British Columbians would support a ban on corporate and union donations before the next election,
Summary of Political Donations to B.C. Political Parties (updated October 2016)
Under the current British Columbia Elections Act, every registered political party in B.C. must declare the sources of all donations over $250 in a given year.
Since 2005, the B.C. Liberal party has declared more than $106 million in political donations, while the B.C. New Democratic Party (NDP) has declared more than $42 million in the same period. The B.C. Green Party has declared just over $1.8 million in political donations since 2005.
You can go here to see a list in alphabetical order of all donations made to the B.C. Liberal Party since 2005.
You can click here to see a list in alphabetical order of all donations made to the B.C. NDP since 2005.
You can click here to see a list in alphabetical order of all donations made to the B.C. Green Party since 2005.
Donor Breakdown for Each Major Political Party in 2015
- $5.2 million (52 per cent) came from corporations
- $3.35 million (33 per cent ) from individuals
- $728,795 (7 per cent) from unincorporated businesses and organizations, and
- $24,075 (>1 per cent) from trade unions
In 2015, the B.C. NDP declared $3.05 million in political donations [PDF]. Of that total:
- $143,820 (4 per cent) came from corporations
- $2.49 million (81 per cent) from individuals
- $35,290 (1 per cent) from non-profit organizations, and
- $376,336 (12 per cent) from trade unions
In 2015, the B.C. Green Party declared $394,310 in political donations [PDF]. Of that total:
- $383,720 (97 per cent) came from individuals
- $10,549 came from corporations
DeSmog Canada's latest news coverage on the issue of B.C. Political Donations
The fossil fuel industry lobbied the B.C. government more than 22,000 times between April 2010 and October 2016, according to a report released Wednesday by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives as part of the Corporate Mapping Project.
The report also found that 48 fossil fuel companies and associated industry groups have donated $5.2 million to B.C. political parties between 2008 and 2015 — 92 per cent of which has gone to the BC Liberals.
The Corporate Mapping Project is a six-year research and public engagement initiative jointly led by the University of Victoria, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Alberta-based Parkland Institute.
“I was definitely surprised at the sheer volume of lobbying contacts that we found,” Nick Graham, lead author of the report and PhD candidate at the University of Victoria, told DeSmog Canada.
Christy Clark recently turned down the opportunity to limit foreign and corporate donations to political parties in campaigns. She justified her position by simply stating, “I represent everyone.”
Yet a new poll conducted by Insights West found the vast majority of British Columbians — 86 per cent — support a ban on both corporate and union political donations.
The poll, conducted on behalf of the Dogwood Initiative, a democracy advocacy organization, suggests Clark’s cozy relationship with major foreign and corporate donors could put her in the hot seat leading into the province’s next election.
That seat is likely to be even hotter after revelations Clark takes a cut of funds donated to the B.C. Liberal party through exclusive cash-for-access events that can cost up to $20,000 dollars to attend.
A high percentage of B.C. Liberal donors, 81 per cent, and an even higher number of B.C. NDP voters, 91 per cent, support putting a ban on corporate and union donations before the next election.
By Dermod Travis, executive director of IntegrityBC.
One of the last things anyone would ever imagine the B.C. government doing is adopting an old NDP program, but that's exactly what Energy and Mines Minister Bill Bennett did this month when he announced a five-year, $300 million hydro bill deferment plan for 13 B.C. mines owned by six companies.
Never mind that BC Hydro is grappling with its own deferral problems to the tune of $5 billion.
Make no mistake, there's a price to pay when BC Hydro becomes a political arm of government. The intertwining of self-interests gets complicated, and the interests of ratepayers can take a backseat to political interests.
Three of the six companies in Bennett's deal were highlighted in a December Financial Post article, “Debt risks mount as Canada’s base metal miners sink deep in the hole.”
One could argue that the headline alone justifies Bennett's move, except there's no guarantee — other than a hope and a prayer — that BC Hydro will be repaid.
The 2014 financial reports from B.C.’s political parties are out and my face hurts from all of the eyebrow raising.
Here are the Top 5 disconcerting revelations from this year’s disclosures. (Thanks to Integrity BC for drawing my attention to many of these.)
1) Let’s start with the $40,950 that accounting firm KPMG gave to the BC Liberals in 2014. KPMG is the company BC Hydro hired to “independently review” the costs of the $8.8 billion Site C dam. The B.C. government has pointed to the KPMG report to defend its decision to ignore an expert recommendation to send the project to the B.C. Utilities Commission for review.
Since 2005, KPMG and its related companies have given $284,994 to the BC Liberals and $13,150 to the NDP.
Unlike the U.S., where the wellspring of cash flooding federal elections is reaching a new level of absurdity (try $5 billion), Canada has kept federal political campaigns relatively grounded by placing an outright ban on corporate donations during elections.
Yet the influence publicly-traded corporations exercise in Canada – through lobbying, political contributions during provincial elections, think tank support, advertising and advocacy campaigns – remains hugely significant, according to a discussion paper recently released by the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE), an organization that provides investment services and research to institutional investors.
“Concern about the effect of money on politics is perennial,” Kevin Thomas, report author and director of stakeholder engagement for SHARE, writes. “Aside from the obvious concerns about the outright corruption and/or illicit expenses and bribery, there is a broader concern about the influence of private interests on the development of policy and regulation, as well as on the content and tenor of public political debate.”
Imagine having to read through 10,000 written comments on the same topic. It would probably be a touch on the tedious side — yet that’s exactly what a task force did back in 2010 before issuing 31 recommendations to reform our province’s municipal elections.
The task force included three Liberal MLAs and four elected officials from towns and cities across British Columbia.
What was the most egregious problem they found during their investigation? Campaign finance rules.
In a nutshell, local elections in B.C. have been the Wild West of campaign finance — with candidates allowed to take donations from anyone and spend as much as they like.
Amid controversy about Enbridge’s spending in Kitimat before a plebiscite on its Northern Gateway oil proposal, the B.C. government introduced legislation on Wednesday that, if passed, will tighten rules for campaign financing and advertising in local government elections and referendums — but the changes come four years late and don't go far enough, says a campaign finance expert.
The new Local Elections Campaign Financing Act and Local Elections Statutes Amendment Act will require third-party advertisers to register with Elections BC, identify donors of $50 and more and report expenditures for the first time. It will also require all election advertising to clearly name a sponsor and will ensure all campaign donations and expenses are published on the Elections BC website. It will also extend the terms of office for local elected officials from three years to four.
“This is the most significant update to B.C.’s local elections process in 20 years,” Coralee Oakes, the province’s community, sport and cultural development minister, said in a statement.
However, the legislation still won’t mandate spending limits for candidates and third parties — a recommendation made by a joint B.C.-Union of B.C. Municipalities local government elections task force in 2010. The government says expense limits will be broached in a second phase of legislation before the next local election in 2018.