NDP leader John Horgan, BC Liberal leader Christy Clark and B.C. Green leader Andrew Weaver prepare for their first debate in the 2017 election campaign. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

Millions raised, spent in B.C.’s last ‘big money’ election

NDP government to ban corporate, union donations

The B.C. NDP took in more than $9 million in political contributions for the May B.C. election, with the help of more than $3 million from unions, compared to $7.6 million for the B.C. Liberals, according to expense filings released Tuesday by Elections B.C.

The filings show the B.C. Liberals outspent the NDP by $4.6 million to $4.3 million during the restricted spending period of the election, in what is expected to be the last B.C. campaign with the current loose limits on political contributions and expenditures. The NDP minority government has pledged to ban corporate and union donations and put a limit on individual donations.

Elections B.C. reports include a searchable database to look up individual donors and finances for each of the 87 constituencies.

The B.C. Liberals raked in $13 million in 2016, more than some federal parties, in the province notorious in Canada for having no limit to personal, corporate or union donations. Real estate developers, resource industries and hospitality companies led the way.

The B.C. Liberals campaigned on a promise to refer provincial election finance rules to an independent review. But faced with a united NDP-Green opposition after the election, former premier Christy Clark’s throne speech included a vow do eliminate corporate and union donations immediately. That throne speech was rejected in a vote of non-confidence that led to the NDP government of Premier John Horgan.

The B.C. NDP lagged behind in fundraising, but going into the May election they managed to scoop the largest single donation in the province’s history, more than $650,000 from the United Steelworkers and various locals. It then emerged that the party’s top campaign managers were being paid directly by the U.S.-based union.

The B.C. Liberal riches became more embarrassing when it was learned that lobbyists were being pressured into buying tables at fundraising dinners, then charging the costs back to their corporate clients. This violates Elections BC rules, because it conceals the true source of the donations.

The B.C. Liberals ended up returning nearly $60,000 in improperly reported donations, dating back to 2011, and revising their annual financial reports going back to 2005 to correct the sources of another $40,000.