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

May 25, 2010 Comments off

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.

The Most Underrated Exciting Current Event In BC Politics: Our Province, Our Future

May 4, 2010 Comments off

It is an exciting time in BC politics at the moment, but what excites me the most is not the H.S.T., or the Site C Dam, but the BC New Democrats “Our Province, Our Future” initiative.

What is Our Province, Our Future, one might ask? It’s a consultation process between the citizens of BC and the BC New Democrats, focused on a discussion of how BC’s economy should be managed by a social democratic government.

Let’s repeat that: a public discussion on the economy being lead by the BC New Democrats. It’s about time! Especially since the BC Liberals have been proving over and over again, from having a deficit way over the promised $450 million to the HST, that they have no clue how to manage the BC economy.

While the first big event of Our Province, Our Future was a “Leader’s Summit” held on April 30th, what’s more interesting is the website itself.

The website contains many different reference resources about BC’s economy that one can read, including the main discussion paper “Looking Forward: The BC Economy at a Crossroads,” which serves as an overview to the current state of BC economy. After all that reference material has been read, it is possible for one to sign up to participate on the website’s forums, and participate in the discussion itself.

All in all, I’ve got to say that the use of participatory web technology for a public discussion on the economy is a really good foundation for the hard work that the BC New Democrats will have to do in order to win government in BC. I’ll probably be posting more on the Our Province, Our Future initiative as it develops.

BC Budget 2010: BC New Democrats Bloggers Scrum

March 3, 2010 1 comment

The BC New Democrats held an blogger-exclusive scrum with budget critic Bruce Ralston in regards to the BC 2010 budget, therefore continuing an event established for the BC 2009 budget update. This scrum was bigger than last time, involving blogs such as Northern Insights, TheLeftCoast.ca, Politics, Re-Spun, and B.C. Policy Perspectives.

Ralston opened by stating that what he found was the most striking thing about this budget was the BC Liberal attempt to try to re-brand the HST as a measure that would be used to exclusively fund health care. He predicted that this re-branding would fail and only serve to further galvanize opposition to the HST in BC.

After that short statement, the bloggers were allowed to ask questions.

In particular, I was interested in the BC New Democrats’ opinion on the rather particular property tax deferral program for parents with children under 18. Ralston didn’t think much of the program. It would not result in new funding or jobs that could help these families, only provide a line of credit at no cost to the government. Furthermore, Ralston thought it was rather ironic that the BC Liberals were introducing measures to reduce the tax burdens of large banks while enabling families to accumulate more debt.

In regards to the questions asked by other bloggers: I’m sure that they will be posting more details on their respective blogs, so I’ll just go over some of the highlights.

There was a lot of discussion about the HST, and how it would be a tax shift that would take the burden off of business and onto the middle class. Also mentioned was the fact that the BC Liberal Government choose to only receive $250 million of the $1.6 billion federal inducement for adopting the HST instead of receiving the originally agreed to $750 million for this year. Ralston agreed that it was rather particular that the BC Liberals choose to defer $500 million instead of using it to avoid borrowing $500 million and therefore having to pay interest on it.

Another question asked was: were the BC New Democrats still committed to better, independent reporting of government budget reporting? Ralston reaffirmed this commitment, and discussed how there was further work to be done in making the government budget process less archaic, less politicized, and developing more ways to allow better comparisons of numbers between the various budget documents.

Close to the end, somebody asked one of the big questions: if the BC New Democrats were in government, would the deficit be bigger? Ralston admitted that yes it would be, as the BC New Democrats made a commitment during the 2009 election to have a bigger stimulus package focused on green infrastructure and work to preserve services that would be harmed by short-term, short-sighted panicked cuts.

BC Local Government Elections Task Force Composition Disappointing

December 7, 2009 Comments off

At the 2009 Union of BC Municipalities Convention, the BC Liberals announced the creation of an Local Government Elections Task Force charged with making changes to the municipal electoral process.

Last Friday, the composition of that task force was announced, and I’ve got to say I’m really disappointed.

First of all, the 6 person task force is composed of 6 politicians: 3 provincial and 3 municipal. One would think that a Task Force dealing with this subject matter would have at least 1 person that has had the responsibility of organizing an election, not just competed in one.

Secondly, out of the 3 provincial politicians, 3 are BC Liberals. Again, one would think that this Task Force would have at least 1 BC New Democrat, for the reasons that: 1) the election process is supposed to be non-partisan, and 2) one would think that having a different perspective for a person who has run in an election would be useful.

Honestly, for a political party which I will admit has made positive forward strides in the area of municipal government in the past, I really expected a better task force from the BC Liberals, not this overly political, overly partisan group.

The Tyee Confused On BC NDP’s Position on Campaign Financing Reform

November 30, 2009 2 comments

The Tyee reported during the second day of the BC New Democratic Party, the convention-goers rejected public financing, allowing for the continuation of political donations from big money, corporations, and labour.

However, that is not the case.

Earlier, the convention-goers did vote in favour of a resolution which, in part, called for:

… legislating campaign finance to take big money out of elections and put individuals voters at the centre of the political process. (Resolution B2009-01)

Then, what was the resolution that was voted against, and therefore responsible for the Tyee’s misconception? This one:

…That a BC NDP government will implement provincial political public financing laws that mirror those now in use during federal political campaigns. (Resolution B2009-02)

One can see how one would think that the BC NDP voted against public financing; after all the federal campaign financing system limits the amount that individuals can donate and prevents corporations and labour from donating. In fact, I am certain that the intent of the original resolution: to limit individual donation and ban corporate and labour donations.

However, most of the convention delegates read a little further into that resolution (too far, if you ask me.) Most of the delegates contended that this resolution would be calling for an near exact duplication of federal political donation laws, and then pointed out some of the administrative problems that have been faced by political parties while working under these laws. The conclusion of their arguments: why duplicate a flawed law when a made-in-BC law with all of the flawed fix could be made?

The wangling was confusing, but the desire of the BC New Democrat Convention is clear: they would like see reform of the campaign financing laws so that political donations from individuals are limited and donations from corporations and unions are banned, but they want to have it implemented in a manner differently than it was federally.

 

Which Way Should The BC New Democrats Go Ideologically?

November 24, 2009 1 comment

With the BC New Democrat Convention beginning in only 3 days, discussion has cropped up in regards to which direction, in an ideological sense, that the BC New Democrats should head towards.

There are two major arguments. One states that the BC New Democrats should orient itself to the centre-left and focus on policies and messages which try to convince new groups to vote for the party. The other states that the BC New Democrats should orient itself to the, let’s say, left-centre-left, and focus on policies and messages which appeal and energize the core New Democrat base.

To a degree the left-centre-left argument makes sense; after all, an application of game theory in politics states that the best electoral coalition to win under is the smallest one needed for victory, for the reason that if less groups are responsible for bringing your party victory, then less political favours (with less possible conflicts between them) are required to keep those groups happy. Furthermore, there are examples which show that energizing your base (while taking action to reduce the likeliness that people not within your base will vote) can work to win elections. The US Republicans in the early ’00’s are a good example. The Harper Conservatives in the late ’00’s are a less successful example.

However, I believe that the left-centre-left argument has one very big, gaping flaw: the BC New Democrat base is not a big enough electoral coalition to win an election in BC, unless the opposing right-wing electoral coalition is featured fractured.

Therefore, we are left with the centre-left argument: that the BC New Democrats need to work on convincing new groups to vote for the party. That means that the party must work on messages and policies that attract the swing voter. And let’s be honest here: considering that the large fault line in BC politics is the so-called “socialism versus free enterprise” split, that means making inroads into BC’s business community. That means establishing a perception of the New Democrats as sound fiscal managers, because heck, the BC Liberals certainly aren’t.

Some supporters of the left-centre-left argument might respond to this by saying: “BC Business Groups aren’t going to support the BC New Democrats because they will always get a better deal from the BC Liberals.” But I’m not sure if getting the support of business groups is the reason why the BC New Democrats should make inroads into the business community. No, the big 3 reasons why the BC New Democrat should be making inroads is:

  1. To attract swing voters that watch the business community, but aren’t as tied up in the leadership of business groups;
  2. To reduce the fear of a BC New Democrat government and therefore reduce the actions taken to prevent it; and
  3. To recruit candidates with perceived business and economic credentials.

I believe for the period ahead of us, the BC New Democrats should be going in a ideological direction that will enable us to gather the electoral coalition needed to win and retain control of BC’s government. Once that is done, then the incremental work of shifting the both the BC New Democrats electoral coalition and the people of BC to the left can begin.

What’s Worse Than A Harper Minority?

October 5, 2009 3 comments

A BC Liberal Majority, according to a fundraising letter from former MP and current MLA Dawn Black:

After almost a decade as a Member of Parliament, I thought I had seen it all.

I thought, “Nothing could be worse for ordinary people than a Harper government.”

Now I sit across the aisle from Harper’s pal, Gordon Campbell.

After just four months as an MLA, I realize that I had seriously underestimated how arrogant and uncaring a government can be.

The polls how the people of B.C. are realizing it too. Today, we have a unique window of opportunity.

I am asking for your help to make sure it doesn’t pass us by…

While I don’t think that the BC New Democrats will be using this line of attack very much due to the separation of provincial and federal politics in BC, I still thought it would be mildly interesting to federal anti-Harper forces on the blogosphere.

Especially since supposedly anti-Harper-in-policy Michael Ignatieff did explicitly endorse the very same BC Liberals during the 2009 BC Election.