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A Closer Look At The BC New Democrats’ Campaign Finance Reform Act

May 25, 2010

Last week, the BC New Democrats introduced their Campaign Finance Reform Act to the BC Legislature. This is the second time such legislation has been introduced by the BC New Democrats; the first time was in 2008.

So what will the Campaign Finance Reform Act do if passed, one might asked?

The first thing it will do is modify the Elections and Income Tax Acts so that only individuals, not corporations, labour, or non-profits, can donate in BC political parties.

Now, one might say that this modification might come from the self-interest of BC New Democrats. After all, around 2/3rds of BC New Democrats donors are individuals, while around 2/3rds of BC Liberals donors are corporations. That might be true, but I believe that misses the greater moral argument: that in our democracy, only real persons are able to vote. Artificial persons, such as corporations and labour, can not. Therefore only those that are allowed to participate in voting, the individual citizen, should be the only ones that are able to participate financially by donating.

If corporate and labour donations were banned, what would help replace that revenue stream for BC’s political parties? Greater tax credits? Public financial based on the amount of votes received? Matching donations? Nothing?

This is would the second thing that the Campaign Finance Reform Act legislation would address. Well, sort of. What would actually happen is the formation of a Campaign Finance Review Board that would be lead by the Chief Electoral Officer. It would be responsible for reviewing:

  1. the provisions of the Election Act that relate to the financing of the political process;
  2. matters related to campaign and election financing, including political contributions and expenses, election contestant expenses, and election communications and advertising; and
  3. alternative financing structures, including public financing.

This review board would also have to consult the public and make any results available to the public.

Overall, I think that the Campaign Finance Reform Act could be a good start for a public debate on campaign finance reform. Could be. But do keep in mind what happened to the 2008 version of the Campaign Finance Reform Act? It was ruled out of order by the Speaker, and the bill didn’t get past first reading.

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