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Backgrounder: Political financing in British Columbia

Definition of Political Contributions

Currently, any individual, corporation, union or special interest group anywhere in the world can make a political contribution of any size to a B.C. political party. A political contribution is defined by Elections B.C. as a contribution of money, or the value of goods or services provided without compensation to a candidate, leadership contestant, nomination contestant, political party or constituency association.

According to the B.C. Election Act, the classes of contributors are:

  1. Individuals

  2. Corporations

  3. Unincorporated organizations engaged in business or commercial activity

  4. Trade unions

  5. Non-profit organizations

  6. Other contributors

All contributions must be reported; contributions of over $250 must be disclosed with details.

Public Support

Recent polls have shown high levels of support in B.C. for banning corporate and union donations (between 71%[1] and 86%[2] of respondents voting in favour of a ban).

Non-individual contributions[3] – B.C. NDP, B.C. Liberal Party and B.C. Green Party

The B.C. NDP supports banning corporate and union donations if they form government, but continues to solicit these donations in the interim, arguing that it would be irresponsible to “unilaterally disarm” until the rules are changed.[4] In 2015, 18% of contributions to the B.C. NDP came from non-individuals.[5]

The B.C. Liberal Party is opposed to banning corporate and union donations, arguing that public financing would be needed to replace them. Minister of Finance Mike de Jong has said: “Is the government contemplating adopting the kind of ban that others are talking about on corporate donations and union donations? We are not.”[6] In 2015, 66% of contributions to the B.C. Liberal Party came from non-individuals.[7]

The B.C. Green Party has long supported a ban on corporate and union donations. At its 2007 annual general meeting, members of the B.C. Green Party passed a resolution requiring corporate and union donations over $2,500 to be reviewed internally for undue influence and alignment with party values before being accepted. The party has steadily reduced its reliance on corporate and union contributions from 15% in 2014[8] to 3% in 2015.[9] Beginning on Sept. 28, 2016, the party will no longer accept non-individual contributions.

Bans in other Jurisdictions

Corporate and union donations are already prohibited in Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. The Ontario Government proposes to prohibit corporate and union donations in their Election Finances Statute Law Amendment Act, 2016. Federally, only individuals can make political contributions; contributions from corporations, trade unions, associations and groups are prohibited.


[1] http://angusreid.org/top-ups-corporate-union-donations/

[2] http://act.dogwoodinitiative.org/rs/774-SHO-228/images/20160425-Big%24Poll-Presentation.pdf

[3] “Non-individual contributions” refers to contributions received from corporations, unincorporated businesses / commercial organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations and other identifiable contributions excluding bequests - classes 2 to 6.

[4] http://www.vancouverobserver.com/news/bc-premier-rejects-calls-spending-reforms-ndp-seeks-donation-bans

[5] http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/published/100128539.pdf

[6] http://vancouversun.com/news/politics/bc-rules-out-banning-corporate-and-union-donations

[7] http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/published/100128533.pdf

[8] http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/published/100126905.pdf. This figure excludes “Other identifiable income”, which is comprised of two bequests from an estate with one executor. According to Elections B.C., contributions from estates with one executor can also be classified as from individuals (class 1).

[9] http://contributions.electionsbc.gov.bc.ca/pcs/published/100128604.pdf

 

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