Last week, I made a statement in response to Bill 3, which amends legislation on campaign finance reform. I spoke at length about this during my campaign because I believe the way our political parties raise and spend money strikes at the heart of our decision making processes.
Watch the speech or read the full transcript below.
The way our political parties can raise and spend money strikes at the heart of our decision making processes. There is a real and present threat posed to our democracy when the people in this province feel that special interests are getting preferential access to decision makers. It makes people cynical about politics and cynical about politicians and this undermines democracy.
We are already in a time of great change, with new forces impacting our global and provincial economy, and putting new pressures on our society. The pace of change in technology, the ever increasing impacts presented by climate change, the challenges facing youth and millennials as they attempt to prosper in the emerging economy – all of these forces present us with new challenges and new opportunities.
It will be up to all of us in this chamber to help this province navigate these tumultuous waters. We need to ensure that we advance proactive solutions to the challenges we face and that the choices we make don’t simply push the burden onto the next generation. We need to seize real solutions that offer opportunities from British Columbians to lead healthy prosperous lives.
The ability to do any of this depends on us earning the trust of the people of this province. All of us in this chamber have a responsibility to take head on any threats that would undermine this trust. More than anything this is what should unite us in this chamber.
That is why this bill is so important. For too long our campaign finance laws have been allowed to drive cynicism in our politics. Even as we became the last jurisdiction in Canada to have almost entirely unregulated campaign finance laws, little action was taken.
With our new minority government in place, that is changing. I truly believe that the legislation before us is only possible because our situation now incentivizes parties to work together, rather than giving any one party complete power based on a false majority.
With campaign finance, our caucus wanted to see 5 broad themes incorporated into the legislation:
- We want to eliminate the influence of special interests in B.C. elections. This meant removing all forms of corporate and union donations, as well as ensuring only British Columbians would be able to donate to our political parties.
- We wanted to see BC put in place one of the lowest contribution limits in the country to show British Columbians that where we once were a laggard, we can and should be a leader.
- We wanted to see an overall reduction in spending limits in British Columbia elections. Too much money was being raised, and too much being spent without any consideration of the public benefit from this spending. It was time to end the arms race with strong rules.
- We wanted to ensure that every loophole was closed to avoid a US-style Super PAC system where money flowed to unaccountable third parties. In regulating political parties we need to ensure similar regulations were brought into place for third parties.
- Finally, we wanted to see action on this right away, with legislation tabled in the first session of the new government.
I am proud to see all of these elements in the legislation before us today in one form or another.
But most of all, I am proud to be speaking in support of a piece of legislation that takes a crucial, long overdue step towards restoring British Columbians’ trust in government.
This legislation closes a bad chapter – where BC stood alone as the Wild West of political financing, as millions of dollars from corporations and unions flowed into our political parties and people questioned on whose behalf government decision were being made.
This period eroded public trust in government – But I’m hopeful that we – all of us – can rebuild that trust.
I’m hoping for a better democracy – a democracy that puts people at its centre, not special interests.
A democracy that earns the trust of British Columbians through demonstrating, over and over again, that it is with their hopes, desires, and needs at heart that it makes its decisions.
Because people should never need to question whether government is acting with their best interests at heart, versus the interests of corporate donors. To have to ask this question – a question that became so dominant in BC politics – is to strike at the heart of democracy.
With this legislation, we are removing the corrosive influence of corporate and union donations on our politics.
But the effort to restore trust in government doesn’t end here. It is up to all of us – all of the members in this house to do this, together, through our words and through our actions.
As elected members, we must be open, engaged, and accessible to our constituents and to British Columbians. We must be responsive – the growing frustration with the wild west fundraising fell on deaf ears for too many years – and cynicism was allowed to grow.
We must be honest and transparent about why we make the decisions, and take the stands, that we do. Including when decisions are difficult, and when open conversation is uncomfortable.
This bill is one step – one crucial step – that government must take to restore people’s faith in government, and I’m very pleased to support it.