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Controversial fundraiser leaves B.C. NDP as guilty as the Liberals

This should have been a very good week for the B.C. NDP and its Leader, John Horgan.

The party was announcing its position on the trophy hunting of grizzly bears. If elected next spring, a New Democratic government will end the repellant practice.

Polls have repeatedly shown that the vast majority of British Columbians – 90 per cent in the most-recent one – abhor the thought of killing these beautiful creatures for the sole purpose of mounting their heads on a living-room wall. Yet, despite this, the province's Liberal government refuses to ban it.

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Premier Christy Clark maintains her government's position is based on science; there are lots of grizzlies in the province; ergo, it's okay to shoot a few. And once they are dead, does it really matter if someone cuts off their head? It's not as if the bear is going to feel it.

That, unbelievably, is the government's view. It has no moral qualms about allowing some rich hunter from California to come up here to get a bear rug for his den – and a picture with the iconic beast he just took down with his shotgun.

If it puts a few bucks in the pocket of a backcountry guide from the Interior, all the better. Not inconsequentially, the Guide Outfitters Association of B.C. has, over the past few years, donated tens of thousands of dollars to the Liberals – so it could be said the party is simply looking after its friends.

As we know, the Liberals have no problem taking money from anywhere, and anyone. British Columbia is an ethical black hole when it comes to campaign financing. This is the one Canadian province where anything goes.

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Which brings us to the news that managed to overshadow Mr. Horgan's trophy-hunt announcement on Thursday.

At about the same time that he was laying out the NDP's new policy, Andrew Weaver of the Green Party was revealing that Mr. Horgan was headlining a fundraising event in Vancouver at which attendees could pay up to $10,000 to dine with the NDP Leader.

And in an instant, Mr. Horgan's grizzly-bear pitch was being drowned out by cries of hypocrisy over his cash-for-access banquet.

It's a shame the NDP couldn't resist the temptation to raise money in the same unscrupulous fashion as the Liberals. If elected, the New Democrats have pledged to end union and corporate donations and put firm limits on how much individuals can donate. The NDP's promised reform would all but outlaw the venal dinners Ms. Clark and her cabinet colleagues attend, at which small, intimate gatherings of the very rich get to bend the ear of the government's most senior leaders in exchange for big bucks.

But until it gets into government, it seems, the NDP is not beyond doing the same unethical thing itself.

What a lost opportunity this is. Mr. Horgan could have campaigned on this issue, could have made it a central plank in his election platform. He could have talked about how the elites were buying access to the highest levels of power in this province, an entrée the average Joe could never imagine.

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Mr. Horgan, with the right, Bernie Sanders-type message, could have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through small $50 and $100 donations. He could have said no to the same $10,000 dinners Ms. Clark attends, driving home the distinction between his party and one that trades ingress for dollars.

Now what is he going to say? He can't even open his mouth about this issue. It doesn't matter that he's "only playing by the same rules the Liberals are." So what? It's wrong. It's unprincipled. And now Mr. Horgan and his party are as guilty of it as the Liberals.

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic.

This week, the NDP took an important step forward in the call to protect the province's grizzlies from the despicable reach of trophy hunters. It's not a perfect proposal, as it still allows hunting of the bear for sustenance purposes. And good luck trying to monitor what happens to these animals once a hunter shoots it in the woods somewhere.

But it's a bold move nonetheless, as it could come at a cost of some votes in the Interior and the North.

It's just a shame the NDP couldn't have displayed the same courageousness when it came to party fundraising. Instead of taking the high road, it decided to toil in the same rotten muck as the governing Liberals.

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About the Author
National affairs columnist

Gary Mason began his journalism career in British Columbia in 1981, working as a summer intern for Canadian Press. More

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