B.C.'s Opposition New Democrats are expected to table a private member's bill on Monday that proposes a ban on union and corporate donations in provincial politics – days after their leader returns from a fundraising trip to Toronto aimed at reaping just the kind of contributions the bill aims to outlaw.
John Horgan met with seven or eight contributors in Toronto on Wednesday at a $5,000-a-plate breakfast. The party declined to identify the guests. At the same time, NDP MLA David Eby was using social media to highlight stories in The Globe and Mail this week detailing Liberal Premier Christy Clark's secretive fundraising events.
"Premier refuses to release list of secret attendees who bought access at $10,000+ each," Mr. Eby noted on Twitter. He linked to a Globe story detailing how Ms. Clark has attended exclusive, private events in exchange for party campaign contributions ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 a person.
B.C. Liberal MLA John Martin fired back on Twitter, noting that the provincial NDP has actively sought business donations, including a 2013 fundraising initiative that targeted corporate supporters of the B.C. Liberal Party.
"That's pretty rich @Dave_Eby When you thought you'd win 2013 you were demanding $5,000 from every business or else!" Mr. Martin wrote. In another tweet, he added: "That shakedown was right out of The Sopranos!"
Mr. Martin was referring to a letter sent at the start of the 2013 provincial election campaign to business leaders who had previously donated to the B.C. Liberals. The NDP's corporate fundraiser, Wayne Taylor, urged them to adopt "a balanced approach" in their financial support. The suggested donation was $5,000, and was interpreted by some recipients as a strong-arm tactic.
Mr. Eby said in an interview that there is nothing contradictory about the NDP's stance. He noted that the party has already tabled the private member's bill on corporate and union donations four times, but he said until the law changes, his party needs those donations to compete with the Liberals.
He added that the Premier's private fundraisers are different than the advertised events Mr. Horgan is attending. "If you have access to the levers of power, holding private, backroom parties with people paying $10,000 is incredibly problematic," Mr. Eby said in an interview.
In Toronto, Mr. Horgan declined to be interviewed, and the B.C. NDP's provincial director, Michael Gardiner, fielded a reporter's questions on his behalf.
"Our objective is to win the next election, and to do that we need to raise funds, and to raise funds under the rules that exist. And an event like this – which was advertised – is one way parties raise money under the existing rules," Mr. Gardiner said.
"But the NDP has committed to take big money out of politics, long term – and on our election, we will do that."
The NDP had a banner fundraising year leading up to the 2013 election, raising $9.3-million when the party was strongly leading in the polls. Of that total, $4.6-million came from trade unions and corporations.
The New Democrats are not preparing for the 2017 election with the same widespread expectations of victory, but a party source said the NDP still raised more than $3-million in political contributions last year.
Elections BC disclosure documents, due to be filed Thursday, will show the NDP posting a surplus for 2015, the source said. Political contributions were not enough to cover the party's expenses of $3.5-million, but the party is in the black after selling off its Burnaby headquarters.
A B.C. Liberal spokesperson declined to provide the governing party's fundraising total for 2015, but the information will be publicly posted within two weeks.
With a report from Michelle Pressé in Toronto