British Columbia is introducing political contribution limits, banning union and corporate donations and asking taxpayers to make up the difference, bringing the province in line with fundraising rules in most other jurisdictions in Canada.
Political fundraising in B.C. was virtually unlimited. Parties could accept contributions from individuals, corporations and unions in any amount and from anywhere — not only in the country, but from abroad as well.
Banning those corporate, union and out-of-province donations and putting a limit on contributions was one of the major planks of the B.C. NDP’s election campaign this spring.
It was also one of the stipulations of the agreement with B.C. Green Leader Andrew Weaver that put the NDP’s John Horgan into the premier’s office.
In addition to the bans, the B.C. government has introduced legislation that will set the limit of individual contributions at $1,200 annually. Fundraisers attended by party leaders, cabinet ministers and parliamentary secretaries will also have to be publicly reported, while those in private residences will have donation limits of $100.
These changes will have significant repercussions on political fundraising in the province. To cope with the drop in revenue, the parties will be given a subsidy worth $2.50 for every vote they received in the 2017 election. The subsidy will be lowered and phased out over five years.
Part of wider trend
Though Quebec banned union and corporate donations and put a cap of $3,000 on contributions 40 years ago — the limit was reduced to just $100, the lowest in the country, in 2012 — changes to political fundraising rules have been accelerating over the past few years.
Manitoba banned union and corporate donations in 2000 and limited contributions to $3,000 (since increased to $5,000), followed by the federal government bringing in limits and banning union and corporate donations to parties in 2004. Nova Scotia followed suit in 2010.
But the pace of reform has picked up since 2015, when Rachel Notley’s NDP government in Alberta banned union and corporate donations. This was followed by a $4,000 limit on contributions in 2016.
Faced with fundraising scandals, the Ontario Liberals banned union and corporate donations that year and also brought in a limit of $3,600, down from over $30,000 before. The Liberals also prohibited members of the legislature, candidates and party leaders (among others) from attending fundraising…