Just days before they face a historic defeat in the legislature, the B.C. Liberals were defeated by the NDP and Greens in an attempt to pass a bill to ban corporate and union donations from provincial politics.

The Election Amendment Act, along with a bill that would give the Green Party official party status in the legislature, were presented Monday afternoon in the House. 

But both were immediately defeated in a 44-42 vote, with all Green and NDP MLAs voting against the first reading of the bills.

Before presenting the bill in the legislature, Finance Minister Mike de Jong admitted he believes his party will lose an upcoming confidence vote before the campaign finance reform bill ever becomes legislation.

"It's being tabled at a time where there's every prospect that the government is in its last days," de Jong said to reporters on Monday morning.

But he argued it was important to try to pass the legislation, given the possibility of a snap election. 

"There is a possibility, with a parliament configured as this one is, that we could be into an election at any point, and the sooner the new rules are in place, the sooner they can be understood." 

The bill followed the outline presented by the government in last week's throne speech, including:

  • Banning corporate, union, and third-party donations, including donations in kind, to political parties.
  • Imposing a maximum donation limit for individuals of $2,500 a year to a political party and $2,500 a year to a constituency association.
  • Banning donations from outside B.C. to political parties.
  • Banning funding to provincial parties from federal parties.
  • Restricting third-party spending on political activities.
  • Banning loans to parties except from Canadian chartered banks or credit unions

​De Jong said that different provisions of the bill would take effect at different times, but that the most significant part could be in place quickly. 

"The notion that there would be a ban on corporate and union donations, it is hoped and intended and drafted in a way that they could take place immediately," he said. 

"There seems to a convergence of opinion in favour of doing this. Candidly, this government has been told repeatedly by the opposition that it's something that can be done in a day, that they're willing to do it in a day. So OK, let's test that proposition." 

Political donation rules in Canada2:28

NDP and Greens ruled out support early

The NDP and Green Party voted down the legislation without debate, but the leaders of both parties said before the vote they wouldn't support it.

Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver, who indicated last week he may support such a bill from the Liberals, said he would not be supporting any government bills before a confidence vote.

De Jong

Finance Minister Mike de Jong speaks to reporters about the government's plan to table a bill banning corporate and union political donations on Monday. De Jong said he expects to give an update on the province's financial situation at some point before any confidence vote. (Justin McElroy/CBC)

"In light of our existing accord, until confidence has been tested, it would not be appropriate for us to consider debate on government bills. We will be pleased to work with both parties on legislation to ban big money after the confidence of the House is tested," Weaver said in a statement.

"For 16 years, the Liberals have had the opportunity to reform our outrageously lax campaign finance laws, which have been subject to international scrutiny. For 16 years they have failed to act while continuing to accept millions in corporate donations."

NDP Leader John Horgan also said his party wouldn't be supporting the legislation.

"This is not a session about the premier testing legislation. This is about testing the confidence of the House. That's why we're here. That's why we should get on with it," he said.

"I am not at all interested in continuing to drag this on for the interests of the B.C. Liberals.… When [our] government gets put in place, we will address election promises."  

Confidence vote must happen by Thursday

The votes against the government came on the first day of what could be the B.C. Liberal Party's last week in power after 16 years of governing the province.

Later today, the NDP will introduce a confidence motion as an amendment to the throne speech debate. Along with the Green Party, who have agreed to support the motion, the two parties have 44 MLAs, compared to 43 for the Liberals. 

Because of the rules of the legislature, it won't be debated until Wednesday unless unanimous consent is granted by all MLAs, which is unlikely to happen.

A vote on the amendment must take place by the end of Thursday, and de Jong says his party is aware of the math in front of them. 

"I have heard nothing to indicate that the two opposition parties are suddenly going to side with the government. If the numbers stay the same, there will be a declaration of lack of confidence," he said.

De Jong also said he expects to give an update on the province's financial situation at some point before the confidence vote.