The governing BC Liberals are in the hot seat after a Globe and Mail investigation revealed lobbyists were allegedly illegally funneling money to the party through lobbyists.
Elections BC has launched a probe into the situation, and says the matter could be forwarded to the Criminal Justice Branch if the Election Act has been breached.
The leader of B.C.’s official opposition now says it’s combing its own books to look for illegal donations, and says he wants more action from regulators.
LISTEN: BC NDP Leader John Horgan on election finance reform
First and foremost, if the NDP discovers it too has received donor cash through lobbyists will it promise to give it back?
“Well, of course we would,” says NDP leader John Horgan.
He says he’s asked party officials to dig back through three years’ worth of donations to ensure they all comply with existing laws.
As for the Elections BC investigation, Horgan says he wants the Ministry of Justice to pony up some extra cash to ensure it’s done properly.
He says with just two months to go until the election, Elections BC is fully engaged in setting up the vote and doesn’t have the resources to conduct a thorough investigation before people head to the polls.
“Now we have an investigation into the shady practices of fundraising. They don’t have the resources for that.”
Horgan says the donations question is both a legal issue, and a larger ethical issue of transparency.
“Lobbyists are currently buying tickets at tables and then giving them out to clients unknown. And when that happens, people who are looking for regulatory change, looking to improve their position within government are doing it without going through the lobby registration act. They are circumventing a half dozen rules just by having these fundraisers.”
Horgan again says if elected he’ll ban corporate and union donations – pointing to the six times his party has tabled such legislation from opposition.
Asked how he can square such a principled stand on donations with continuing to accept corporate and union cash in the meantime, Horgan says the NDP needs to be able to compete on a level playing field.
“We’re trying to run an election campaign against the most corporate backed government that B.C. has ever seen. And in order to do that we need to raise funds within the bounds of the laws that exist.”
But he says if elected, the NDP would bring in new campaign finance laws as one of its first acts in government.
“We’ll have to call the legislature back, we’ll have to get everyone sworn in and in place and we’ll do it as soon as we can. It’ll be among our first acts. Rachel Notley in Alberta it was the first act that she brought in when she was premier of Alberta, and it’s my expectation that I would do that too.”