Parties have to stop accepting big money

Originally published in the Peninsula News Review - December 2, 2016

The rules around electoral financing in this province are disgraceful. Any company from anywhere in the world can donate unlimited amounts to whatever political party they choose. 

We are one of the last jurisdictions in Canada that allow money to influence our electoral system in such a blatant way. Yet our governing BC Liberals scoff at criticism of a system from which they directly benefit (60% of their donations are from corporations including the likes of Kinder Morgan and Petronas. The party took in $70 M in corporate donations over the last decade with $12 M coming from the Real Estate sector).

Corporate and union donations are having a huge impact on our elections, and it’s pretty clear that it is influencing the positions and policies of the governing BC Liberals, further eroding the public’s trust. Yet the Official Opposition, the BC NDP, are also lacking leadership on this issue. 

They have committed to change the system once they are in power and they avidly criticize the BC Liberals for being beholden to corporate interests and for holding exclusive cash-for-access fundraisers. Yet they then turn around and do the exact same thing themselves. For example, just last week the BC NDP courted BC’s resource industry in a fundraiser dinner, offering exclusive access to the Leader of the Opposition for a mere $10,000. If political parties say they don’t want to be tainted by big money, then they need to stop accepting it. Period.

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 BC Liberals worries me. Equally worrying is the fact that the Steelworkers Unions have donated $66,325 to the BC NDP since January 2015.

The BC Greens are the only party in BC that has banned corporate and union donations. It’s British Columbians who vote in this province and if we want BCers 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.

Adam Olsen

Stellys Cross Road, Brentwood Bay, BC, V8M 1J7