The B.C. NDP government has introduced legislation outlawing donations to political parties by corporations and labour unions.
Also included in the bill are measures to end other practices that have earned the province the reputation as the ‘Wild West’ of election financing.
“We're reforming campaign finance rules to make sure government's actions and decisions benefit everyone, not just those with deep pockets," Premier John Horgan said in a government news release.
Bill 3 or Election Act Amendment, 2017, was filed Monday (September 18) by Vancouver-Point Grey MLA and Attorney General David Eby.
“This legislation will make sure 2017 was the last big-money election in our province,” Eby said in the news release. “The days of limitless donations, a lack of transparency and foreign and corporate influence over our elections are history.”
In addition to the ban on corporate and union donations, the bill also seeks to limit individual contributions to $1,200 a year.
The measure also proposes to ban donations from outside the province.
The bill likewise provides a cap to contributions to third-party advertisers.
Other provisions include a requirement for ongoing public reporting of all fundraisers, reduction of campaign spending limits by about 25 percent, and new fines and penalties.
The measure also includes a “transitional annual allowance for political parties over a set term of five years” to “help political parties transition to the new campaign finance rules”.
The said allowance will be received by political parties whose candidates in the May 14, 2017 election received at least two percent of the total number of valid votes cast in all electoral districts, or five percent of the total number of valid votes cast in the electoral districts in which the political party endorsed candidates.
The annual allowance starts in 2018 at $2.50 per vote received, an amount that diminishes to $1.75 in 2022.
The overhaul of the campaign finance system was part of the pact between the B.C. NDP and Green Party of B.C., which allowed Horgan and his New Democrats to topple the B.C. Liberal government and form a minority government.
The introduction of Bill 3 was welcomed by Oak Bay-Gordon MLA and B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver.
“This is a historic day for our province’s democracy,” Weaver said in a statement.
According to Weaver, he is “delighted that 2017 will go down in history as the last big money election in B.C.”.
In the same statement, Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands and B.C. Green caucus spokesperson for democratic reform, said that the legislation is a “big step” in the restoration of public trust in government.
“The undue influence of special interests through our province’s lax campaign finance laws has led to cynicism and to people feeling like their voices are not heard,” Olsen said.