Excerpt from the Official Report of
DEBATES OF THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

(Hansard)


October 2, 2017

On Banning Big Money in Politics

(Please note that this is in response to another member's questions and the full text is available through the BC Legislature)

Hon. S. Simpson: I'm pleased to have the opportunity to join in this debate. I guess the first thing that came to mind, as I've listened to bits of the debate on TV and doing other things, is that the sanctimonious hypocrisy of the official opposition is at stunning levels. They have to be embarrassed themselves with this silly performance that we've seen from them over this.

This is the party…. Six times, the current government, when in opposition, introduced legislation to ban big money. It was rejected every time by the government. And it was dismissed. The Premier of the day dismissed it off as she went to a $25,000-a-plate dinner with friends. The current interim Leader of the Opposition dismissed it off as he went out and raised money in tens of thousands of dollars from corporations. Minister after minister on that side know, as they raised millions and millions of dollars for their party — the Wild West, as the New York Times called it — there was absolute silence.

Those members now, who sat in the back bench of a previous government, sat silent. Those candidates over there…. I don't remember hearing any of them making public commentary about the fact that they thought big money should get out of politics. They were more than happy to take the tens of millions of dollars that were handed to this party every day and spend it to hang onto power. Because they did not care a whit about the morality of that as long as they hung onto power. That's the shameless hypocrisy of the B.C. Liberal party on this issue.

[...]

Hon. S. Simpson: That's the shameless hypocrisy. That Member over there — another of the culprits. I'm sure that member from Richmond got more than his share of big cheques.

[...]

Hon. S. Simpson: I'm sure that that Member from Richmond got tens of thousands of dollars from his corporate friends. Tens of thousands of dollars.

We all remember…. That Member might remember quick wins. The Member might want to talk about that and think about that.

The B.C. Liberal party gave tax breaks to their millionaire friends who underwrote their party. They took $8 million from real estate developers while delaying action on the housing crisis. They took over $3.5 million from the oil industry and then, as we've now learned of course, they took that money who underwrote their party. They took $8 million from real estate developers, while delaying action on the housing crisis. They took over $3½ million from the oil industry. Then, as we've now learned, of course, they took that money, took their expert panel on climate action, and let that same oil industry, which gave them over $3½ million, write the government's response to the recommendations of the Expert Panel on Climate Change.

Why should anybody in British Columbia believe one word that the B.C. Liberals have to say about this? You have no credibility on this issue. The B.C. Liberals simply have no credibility on this issue.

The race to introduce something at the last minute — it's kind of like that throne speech that you introduced before you fell from power. The clone speech. The one that nobody…. People across the province just rolled their eyes. They couldn't believe what was coming out of the mouths of B.C. Liberals — a flip, just like that. That was a flip that was all about a desperate attempt to hang onto power, all about a desperate flip to try to hang onto power — thinking that somehow, after you had fooled British Columbians for the better part of 16 years, they were going to buy that.

It isn't going to happen, and the people of British Columbia don't buy your righteous indignation on the issue of electoral finance reform. There's $55 million from 177 donors. That's what the B.C. Liberal party took — $55 million from 177 donors, and then about $15 billion in public contracts came back the other way. Why on earth do you think that anybody in this province believes you on that issue?

People across this province want big money out of politics. I don't know how many folks I've talked to, supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party, who have said they can't wait to not have to do this again. They can't wait to know that when they sit down to talk to elected representatives, they can talk to them about the merit of their issues, they can talk to them about their concerns, they can talk to them about how we work together to build this province, and they don't have a write a cheque to do it.

That's what we accomplish with the legislation that's in front of us today. This piece of legislation will take $65 million of big money out of B.C. politics — $65 million. It will change the nature of politics in this province in a way that we have not seen before. This change will be that fundamental.

The only other change we may see that will be as significant as this may be if we change the way we elect people to come to this place. We will have that discussion over the next year or so, leading to a referendum next fall, but taking the money out may be the most important thing of all. In taking that money out — because it will change the dynamic of politics, without doubt — this legislation also says we're cutting the amount that people can spend, by 25 percent.

That's a good thing, because what we need to do is to know that we are going to be able to spend enough money to get our message out to the people who elect us in our constituencies, who make the choice in our constituencies about who is going to be their representative. There needs to be enough resources available there to deliver that message, but there really doesn't have to be any more than that.

We can get that done with less money than we spend today. I certainly realize that, after four elections. I started out thinking I had to to be enough resources available there to deliver that message, but there really doesn't have to be any more than that.

We can get that done with less money than we spend today. I certainly realize that, after four elections. I started out thinking I had to spend all the money that was available to me, but I very quickly learned that that wasn't necessary. It's not necessary in most cases.

What this legislation does is it deals with the fundamental questions that people wanted addressed. It ends corporate and union donations. It puts a $1,200 cap on how much money an individual can donate to a political party. It bans out-of-province donations. There'll be no more fundraisers in Calgary with the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

It ramps up transparency in fundraising events to address cash-for-access concerns. It ensures that you have to be transparent and clear about that. It deals with the issue — which I know our friends over on the other side have talked a lot about and seemed to have embraced — the question of how you transition when you take $65 million out of play in politics. It deals with the transitional issue, and it does ask the public to help protect the integrity of the democratic process in doing that.

We saw the New York Times — and we've seen others — talk about the Wild West of political cash that has happened in British Columbia for more years than anybody cares to know. We require to address that issue and to address it head on, and this piece of legislation does exactly that.

That's why it becomes critical, I would hope, that all members would see fit to endorse this piece of legislation, to support this piece of legislation, to make sure that, in fact, we are taking big money out of politics and that it's not a partisan thing. Everybody in this House should be embracing taking big money out of politics. If we're going to do this, we need to be clear that the change to politics in British Columbia is one where there is, I believe, a broad consensus of support.

I would like the members on the other side to actually put their money where their mouth is, so to speak, and support the legislation. I think that would be a good thing. I'm not holding my breath for that to occur. I'm not. I think the Minister of Health is befuddled by that. What could I say?

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Hon. S. Simpson: We'll go there on another debate, Minister.

The issue that the other side, the opposition, will talk about is the transition. What that transition says is that over a period of time — heading through 2018 through to 2022, starting at $2.50 a vote and going down, in every year, to $1.75 in 2022 — there will be support for political parties. There will be support to allow that transition.

As we've seen from many commentators, including conservative commentators — commentators who would generally embrace the views of the official opposition — they understand that taking $65 million out of the political process overnight creates challenges.

It does create challenges for a political process. Our response, as the response of many governments and many provinces has been, is to provide a buffer there. What we have said, though, is rather than have it be a permanent situation, it's a transition through to 2022. The government and the Legislature of 2022 will make a determination as the response of many governments and many provinces has been, is to provide a buffer there. What we have said, though, is that rather than have it be a permanent situation, it's a transition through to 2022 and that the government and the Legislature of 2022 will make a determination around whether it expires as the legislation says it will or whether it goes on and continues. That'll be important.

I know that I and my colleagues are hopeful and confident that we will be the government in 2022 that will have to determine that question and work on that question, and we'll be happy to do that. But the important reality is that there will be at least one election between now and then, and the people of the province will have a chance to vote. They will elect the government that will address this issue, and they will elect the Legislature that will address this issue of money.

If we're going to have a process that makes sense, it becomes important, I believe, that we have these kinds of tools in place. I believe it is important that we do that. The other important thing about this…. 

There were concerns raised about the timing for this legislation. What the Attorney General has done in preparing this legislation and bringing it forward I think is an innovative and thoughtful approach. It's an approach that says money has been raised by all parties since the last May election. Since the May election, money has been raised by all parties. It's been raised by all parties in a variety of ways. And I think it makes good sense that what the legislation says is if that money is outside of the new rules, then it is seriously limited in how those dollars can be used, including saying those dollars cannot be used in the next general election. 

That should provide comfort to people, and that should provide comfort, as well, that allows us to have a full and thorough and thoughtful debate that I'm sure most, if not all, members of this Legislature will take their place to participate in. That is important, and there will be lots more debate, because I'm sure that our voters do want to hear from us what we think about this legislation and about taking big money out of politics. 

I think that that makes a lot of sense going forward. This was a fundamental commitment of ours to take big money out of politics. It is a fundamental commitment of the Green Party to take big money out of politics. 

It is something that after six times refusing to deal with private members' legislation that would have done that, after ignoring and rejecting that six times, somewhere on the road to Damascus the official opposition found the notion of taking big money out of politics. Somewhere on that road they found that. Now we all have a chance to cast a vote, when this legislation comes to vote, to take that money out of politics.

This is very significant legislation. It is legislation that will change how we do politics in British Columbia. It is legislation that will say politics is about ideas. It's about representation. It's about how you work with people in communities. It's about how you connect with people in communities. It's about how you advance ideas and excite people about ideas. It's not about how many tens of millions of dollars were given to you by wealthy supporters.

I don't care if those wealthy supporters are corporations or unions. It doesn't matter. That money goes. It says that only British Columbians, at an average of, at the most, $100 a month, can donate to political parties. That is about as grassroots as you get. That is about as fundamental as you get in making sure that politics is controlled by the people of British Columbia. 

The opposition can argue about the transitional funds, but those are British Columbia dollars. That's about as grassroots as you get. That is about as fundamental as you get in making sure that politics is controlled by the people of British Columbia.

The opposition can argue about the transitional funds, but those are British Columbia dollars. That's B.C. money. It's B.C. taxpayer money, as we'll be reminded many times, but it is B.C. dollars.

We are ensuring that politics in British Columbia remains with British Columbians with this legislation. We are ensuring that whoever is elected under these new finance rules, it's done because they were supported by British Columbians to win that election. That's important. It's important moving forward. It's something that we should all be excited about and we should all embrace.

I look forward to voting for this legislation. I know it has excited people across the province that we are finally going to get these rules put in place. I know it has excited people across the province that they know that their vote will count for more, even if they can't write a $50,000 cheque or attend a $25,000-a-plate dinner. Their vote will count. I think we should all be thankful and grateful that that's where we're going.

I look forward to voting for this. I'm sure that it will receive unanimous support across the Legislature.

events
Saturday, October 21, 2017 - 10:00am - 4:00pm
Sunday, October 22, 2017 - 12:00pm - 2:00pm
Tuesday, October 24, 2017 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 11:00am - 3:00pm
Saturday, October 28, 2017 - 12:00pm - 3:00pm