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BC NDP set to reveal new political campaign fundraising rules

B.C. Premier John Horgan pauses while speaking outside Government House in Victoria on June 29, 2017.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Premier John Horgan says legislation to reform B.C.'s campaign-finance rules will be introduced next week and could be passed in a single day, now that all parties in the Legislature have embraced the need for change.

The NDP says its new law will put British Columbia – often described as the Wild West of political fundraising – at the leading edge of reform in Canada.

However, Mr. Horgan intends to continue to participate in political fundraisers for his party, including a $525-a-plate leader's levee on Sept. 22.

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"Political parties are going to have to raise money to fund their operations," he told reporters on Wednesday. His government's promised ban on union and corporate donations "does not mean rubber chicken is no longer going to be sold at political functions … What it means is, there will not be significant influence from deep pockets."

Mr. Horgan's $500-a-head golf fundraiser last month drew criticism from Green Leader Andrew Weaver, who has signed a deal to support the minority NDP government. The Greens have been promised a series of changes, including campaign-finance reform, in exchange for ensuring the NDP doesn't lose a confidence motion in the House.

Last March, as his opposition New Democrats prepared for an election campaign in which campaign-finance reform would be a major issue, Mr. Horgan hosted a leader's levee that he promised would be "the last supper."

The NDP currently has more than half a dozen political fundraisers scheduled for this month.

The governing BC Liberals were under fire in the spring for holding exclusive cash-for-access events in which donors paid thousands of dollars for a chance to sit down with then-premier Christy Clark.

Prior to the election, the Liberals were reluctant to embrace changes to a political-fundraising system that allowed them to haul in more than $13-million in 2016.

However, after losing their governing majority in the provincial election in May, the Liberals tabled a campaign-finance bill that included elements from both the Green and NDP proposals. The opposition parties refused to support that bill, however, and forced a confidence vote that led to the end of the Liberals' 16-year reign.

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On Wednesday, now sitting on the Opposition benches, the Liberals tabled their bill for a second time.

Andrew Wilkinson, a Liberal MLA and former cabinet minister, said he introduced the private members' bill that proposes to outlaw corporate, union and foreign donations, and cap individual donations, because it has already been vetted by legal staff in the ministry of the Attorney-General, and would allow the province to move quickly on change that the public supports.

"The NDP and the Greens have said they are interested in working across party lines for the good of British Columbians," he told reporters after tabling the bill. "This is a chance for them to prove it."

Attorney-General David Eby said his government bill has taken some time to draft because he wanted to close potential loopholes that might allow political donations to be diverted into third parties or party-leadership contests. "I'm very enthusiastic about where we have arrived," he told reporters. "It's exciting that all parties support this kind of reform."

Mr. Eby would not say whether any currently planned NDP fundraisers would have to be cancelled once the bill becomes law, but he hinted there will be retroactive measures that could have an impact on his party's postelection fundraising.

"The bill will address donations that have been made by unions and corporations since the last election. We think it's important it does that, in order to assure the public that 2017 is the last big-money election in British Columbia."

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British Columbia’s Premier and cabinet are meeting with Indigenous leaders at a First Nations Summit ahead of the new legislative session. John Horgan said Wednesday that reconciliation discussions must be followed by actions. The Canadian Press
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