When Premier John Horgan was asked during the election campaign if B.C. taxpayers would be forced to finance political parties, his answer was plain enough.
“Just to be clear,” CHNL radio host Shane Woodford asked Horgan. “There is going to be nothing in there about taxpayers having to fund political parties?”
“That’s correct,” Horgan responded.
“What we propose is that Elections B.C. will look across the country and around the world at the best ways to make sure only individuals are paying for our political process. That’s what we’re going to do.”
That commitment now lies in shambles.
On Monday, the Horgan government introduced a new political financing law that will directly funnel roughly $27.5 million of taxpayers’ money to political parties over the next four years.
The governing NDP-Green alliance called it “a transitional allowance” to help political parties wean themselves off corporate, union and foreign donations, which are banned under the new law.
Banning big money from B.C. politics is a good thing and long overdue. British Columbia had become an international laughingstock with our out-of-control, unlimited, political fundraising porkapalooza.
But by now breaking a campaign promise, and directly financing political parties with taxpayers’ money, the NDP-Green alliance risks an angry public backlash and even more voter cynicism.
The new system will pump $16.4 million into the coffers of the B.C. NDP, Green and Liberal parties, which will also get $11 million in campaign “expense reimbursements” after the next election.
What a twisted merry-go-round this is: B.C. taxpayers give money to political parties. The parties spend it during the election. Then taxpayers give them even more money to “reimburse” their expenses.
Why should B.C. taxpayers fund political parties at all? As Attorney General David Eby explained it, the parties have become too accustomed to all that corporate, union and foreign loot and couldn’t be left gasping.
“Political parties have structures and systems built for the existing rules,” Eby said, adding political parties now face “a big adjustment” getting by on just individual donations (capped at $1,200 a year) and all that money from taxpayers.
The way Eby described it, it’s like a political nicotine patch to help those poor political parties get over their addiction to corporate and union cash.
But the NDP and Greens ignored a different approach: Going cold turkey, and rejecting public money like Horgan said he would.
There’s no reason B.C. political parties can’t stand on their own two feet and fund their operations with individual donations from their own supporters.
As predicted in this space on Sunday, the B.C. Liberals slammed the idea of taxpayers’ money going to political parties.
But I will predict right now the Liberals will take the loot anyway, rather than take the high road and say No to it. They will not allow their NDP and Green enemies to gobble up all that taxpayers’ cash while they take nothing.
The Liberals will instead run in the next election on a promise to scrap taxpayer subsidies to political parties. And angry voters could respond to the promise.
This will come back to haunt the NDP and Greens.