B.C. Liberals fail to make local elections fairer

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VICTORIA – The B.C. Liberals have missed yet another opportunity to make local elections fairer by addressing limits on contributions and banning corporate and union donations in proposed new election financing legislation, say B.C.’s New Democrats.

“Fairness is a crucial value in electoral processes, especially when it comes to financing,” said Selina Robinson, Opposition spokesperson for local government. “For more than four years, the Liberals’ tinkering with local election rules have failed to tackle the elephant in the room: the corrosive effect of big money on our democracy.”

Robinson noted that New Democrats have repeatedly tried to address this issue by calling for and supporting a ban on corporate and union donations at the municipal level.

“While the Liberals are finally implementing expense caps – two municipal election cycles after they were finally recommended – they have once again refused to tackle the root of the problem.”

Recommendations regarding principles to govern expense caps came out of a report from an all–party committee, on which Robinson sits with Opposition MLAs Jenny Kwan and Gary Holman.

Kwan introduced a motion calling to expand the mandate of the committee to include consideration of contribution limits and donation sources, but the motion was defeated by the Liberal members of the committee.

“We heard concerns from many groups during consultations that these donations, including in recent Vancouver elections where individual donors were contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars, are undermining the fairness of local elections,” said Kwan.

“The Liberals say they want to make local elections fairer, but then they turn a blind eye to the central issue of contribution limits.”

Holman, the Opposition spokesperson for democratic reform said that New Democrats believe that removing the perceived conflicts that come with large individual, union and corporate donations would enhance the fairness of elections and boost engagement among people who’ve grown cynical about politics.

“It’s quite simple: If you can’t vote, you can’t donate. Individual citizens, not institutions, should finance B.C.’s political process,” said Holman.  “And there ought to be a limit to what an individual can contribute so that any perception of ‘buying an election’ is eliminated.”