On the eve of the kickoff of his election campaign, Dix stood with four would-be MLAs at Vancouver’s Roundhouse Community Centre and admitted some of his union brethren may not be happy.
“This is a major reform of politics in British Columbia,” said Dix. “I think this is good for the business community and the labour movement as well. Groups will continue to support political parties but will not be involved in fundraising.”
Dix was asked about Premier Christy Clark’s $100,000 TV appearance which is set to air on Sunday night: “I think that’s fair. I think that’s fine. The Liberals will get a lot of attention for what they do tonight.”
Dix said his intention is to limit conflicts of interest with huge donors, but said how political parties choose to spend the money they raise is up to them.
In a press release, B.C. Conservative Party leader John Cummins said his party fully supports the proposal.
“Over two years ago, when I first declared my candidacy for the leadership of the B.C. Conservatives, I pledged that we would ban corporate and union donations,” said Cummins. “I have long believed that special interests, insiders and cronies have had too much influence in politics.”
Dix noted that the federal government has banned such donations — a point seized upon by B.C. Liberal MLA Mary Polak as condoning taxpayer funding of political parties.
“We disagree with the use of taxpayer money to fund political parties, it’s not the way to control spending and make sure that we’re growing the economy,” Polak said in a release. “It’s very concerning that the NDP are trying to hide this important detail.”
While Dix makes the case that the corporate/union ban is about integrity, the policy would appear to represent a major shift in financial power in the direction of his own party.
Statistics show that in 2012 the B.C. Liberals raised about $10 million while the B.C. NDP raised $7 million — in effect a $3-million advantage to the Liberals.
However, if everything else remained the same, taking union and corporate donations out of the mix would have left the B.C. Liberals with $5 million, and the B.C. NDP with $5.4 million — a $400,000 advantage for the NDP.
B.C. Green Party leader Jane Sterk told The Province she supports the policy, even though she notes it would help the NDP.
“I think it’s great if he’s going to follow through with that,” said Sterk. “I hope he’s doing it for the right reasons — the NDP has always had a lot of contributions from individuals.”
Sterk said the Greens would like to see each individual’s donations limited to $2,500 per year, to prevent, for example, business or union leaders from replacing the huge corporate and union donations with huge “individual” donations in their own name.
Dix said if he becomes premier he will strike a legislative committee on campaign reform with representation from all political parties with more than five per cent of the 2013 popular vote, as well as any elected independent MLAs.
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