Corporate and Union Money Doesn't Belong

Originally published in the Huffington Post - December 2, 2016

When a corporation or union donates tens of thousands of dollars to a political party, you can bet that they are having an influence in what that party says or does. How else could they justify the investment?  In our province, this is truly egregious but the B.C. Liberal government scoffs at anyone who suggests it needs to change.

A multinational company can donate whatever amount they wish to any political party in B.C. -- and they do. Petronas, Kinder Morgan, various offshore real estate developers, foreign-owned mining companies, have all contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the B.C. Liberals in recent years

The rules around electoral financing in this province are disgraceful. We are one of the last jurisdictions in Canada that allow money to influence our electoral system in such a blatant way. The B.C. Liberals took in $70 million in corporate donations over the last decade ($12 million came from the Real Estate sector). Over 60 per cent of their donations are from corporations in the last decade.

Corporate and union donations are having a huge impact on our elections, and it's pretty clear that Big Money is also influencing the positions and policies of the governing B.C. Liberals eroding the public's trust. Yet the official opposition, the B.C. NDP, are lacking leadership on this issue. They have rationalized accepting corporate and union influence for fear of falling behind. They are playing the same game and, in doing so, are proving why they have been such an ineffective opposition and why they are not prepared to form the government.

At least the B.C. NDP have committed to changing the system, but only once they are in power. But here lies the problem. They are perfectly happy to criticize the B.C. Liberals for being beholden to corporate interests and for holding exclusive cash-for-access fundraisers, yet then turn around and do the exact same thing themselves.

On November 24, 2016, the B.C. NDP were themselves courting B.C.'s resource industry. Offering exclusive access to the leader of the opposition they charged $10,000 for a corporate VIP package -a single seat to this event cost a mere $2500.

Considering the NDP were up in arms about this practice a few short months ago, chastising the B.C. Liberals for holding extravagant fundraisers with large corporations for their own political gain, their stance is duplicitous, and this do as I say not as I do attitude only further drives the cynicism in B.C. politics.

The underlying issue that we can all agree on is that these sort of political contributions buy undue influence and erode public trust. For example, the fact that Steelhead LNG (the proponent behind the Malahat LNG project in the Saanich Inlet) has contributed $19,700 to the B.C. Liberals worries me. 

But equally worrying is the fact that the Steelworkers Unions have donated $66, 325 to the B.C. NDP since January 2015. If political parties say they don't want to be tainted by big money, then they need to stop accepting it. Period.

The B.C. Greens are the only party in the province that has banned corporate and union donations. It's British Columbians who vote in this province and if we want them to trust us then we need to demonstrate leadership in the face of incredible odds. How else are going to overcome the monumental challenges of our generation? Certainly, not by following or doing what we have done for decades and expecting a different result. That did not work for the B.C. NDP in elections past and won't work this time.