Premier John Horgan speaks to a rally at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver during the 2017 election campaign, in which the NDP made no mention of a public subsidy. (Black Press files)

UPDATE: NDP caps party donations at $1,200 per person

Public subsidy of $2.50 per vote would pay NDP, B.C. Liberals almost $2 million each next year

Premier John Horgan and Attorney General David Eby began delivering on their often-promised restrictions on donations to political parties Monday, with the surprise move to replace the money with millions in public subsidies for parties.

Eby introduced a bill in the legislature that limits individual donations to $1,200 a year, the second-lowest limit in Canada, and bans union and corporate donations. Any prohibited donations collected since the May 2017 election can’t be used in a future election.

The legislation also includes a “transitional annual allowance” for political parties with a minimum number of votes, amounting to $2.50 per vote received next year. That amount diminishes to $2.25 per vote in 2019, $2 in 2020 and and $1.75 in 2021 and 2022.

The allowance would pay the NDP $1.9 million in 2018 alone, with diminishing amounts in the next four years. The B.C. Liberals would make a similar amount based on the 2017 vote count, and the B.C. Greens would get $830,000 in 2018 with more in future years.

Premier John Horgan specifically ruled out using public money to replace corporate and union donations in the months before the May election campaign began. Horgan and B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver congratulated each other for the new legislation at a media briefing at the legislature Monday, and left without taking questions.

Eby took questions, saying the provision to forbid parties from using money raised since May of this year was one consideration in reversing NDP policy and bringing in the public subsidy. He said parties can’t use prohibited donations for advertising or other election expenses during the formal 28-day election campaign period, but they can use it to pay down debt, pay staff, buy property or other expenses not directly related to election campaigns.

B.C. Liberal critic Andrew Wilkinson said his party will vote against the per-vote subsidy, which he expects to pass with NDP and Green support. “It’s pretty clear the NDP and Greens have cut a deal” to benefit their parties, Wilkinson said.

“A special committee of the legislature will review the allowance to determine if it should be continued,” Eby said in a statement. “If no action is taken, the allowance will expire in 2022.”

Asked if local governments would be included in the new rules, as the previous government had proposed, Eby said “We are still working on that.”

The B.C. Liberals re-introduced their own proposal last week, including a $5,000 cap on annual personal donations and no public subsidy.


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