B.C. premier defends flip-flop on public subsidies for political parties

A day after introducing legislation to ban union and corporate political donations, Premier John Horgan is defending his government's decision to put in place taxpayer subsidies for political parties.

John Horgan says government needed to include subsidies because proposed changes are 'significant'

Premier John Horgan speaks to reporters following the introduction of legislation to ban union and corporate political donations. (Richard Zussman/CBC News)

A day after introducing legislation to ban union and corporate political donations, Premier John Horgan is defending his government's decision to put in place taxpayer subsidies for political parties.

Before the provincial election campaign, Horgan said taxpayer money would not be necessary to fund parties, once restrictions come into place.

"We looked at the situation. We are in a minority parliament. We canvassed these issues with the Green Party. We are working together to bring in comprehensive change," said Horgan. "I am owning up to what I said before the campaign. I don't want you to think I am running away from it, because I am not."

Horgan says the changes, including capping individual donations at $1,200 and banning donations from outside of B.C. would have meant $65 million less during the last four year election cycle. 

Subsidy to be phased out after 5 years

The annual allowance is based on 2017 vote totals.

The political parties will receive $2.50 per vote in 2018, going down to $1.75 per vote in 2022, the last year it will be used. The parties will also receive a 50 per cent reimbursement on staff and office costs, which, based on the 2017 election numbers, works out to $11 million. 

"We did a review upon forming government of other jurisdictions in Canada and we rejected pure public financing. We rejected that. And, instead, we put in place a transition fund that will decline year over year," said Horgan. 

"This is the most significant legislation in British Columbia since 1871. I belief that this transition is appropriate based on the impact it will have on our political system."

Horgan said he is hopeful the legislation will pass soon. Newfoundland, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only provinces that don't have taxpayer subsidies for political parties. The NDP has also decided against a public review of the political fundraising system.

The issue dominated question period on Tuesday.

"What British Columbians want to know is that for the majority who would have no interest, no interest whatsoever, to providing any of their hard earned money to the NDP, the premier has removed that option and will use the tax system to dip into their pockets," said B.C. Liberal House Leader Mike de Jong during a question to Horgan. 

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