British Columbia

Attorney General David Eby defends donation ban delay

The B.C. NDP made banning political and union donations in the province a key part of its platform, but Attorney General David Eby says the bill will take some time to put together to make sure it's legally robust.

Eby says delay necessary to make legislation thorough; Integrity B.C. says delay 'highly disappointing'

'We want it to be bulletproof,' said Attorney General David Eby about his yet-to-be-introduced bill banning political and union donations in B.C. (CBC News)

B.C.'s NDP government says it will not rush legislation banning union and corporate political donations, despite the party having already introduced similar legislation to ban big money six times.

The province currently allows unlimited political contributions, and parties can accept donations from anywhere in the world.

Critics have criticized B.C.'s lax political donation system alleging corporations can effectively buy political influence. There were a number of investigations involving political funders leading up to the 2017 election.

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The NDP made banning corporate and union donations to political parties a key part of their election platform, but Attorney General David Eby says now the bill might take longer than some expect so the party can add robust measures to stop third party proxy funding and other loopholes.

Dermod Travis with Integrity B.C. — which has long advocated for such a ban — says he's "highly disappointed" by the delay.

"This is a party whose leader a week before the election said banning big money from B.C. politics would be its first order of business," he said. 

"Now we have the Attorney General hedging, fudging, and trying to find room, flexibility on commitments on pledges that were clear and forthright."

Eby said he understood Travis' concerns.

"I absolutely understand the frustration," he said. "But I don't want my first bill as Attorney General to be struck down by the courts, especially on something as important as this that will definitely be challenged.

"We want it to be bulletproof."

Listen to Attorney General David Eby on CBC's The Early Edition:

His goal, he said, is to make sure the bill is constitutionally sound, that all elements of the bill can be enforced by Elections B.C., and to make sure there aren't third-party proxies continuing to collect donations for parties and undermining the ban.

"Putting something up in a hurry in order to satisfy a political concern isn't the same as putting forward legislation that addresses all these concerns," he explained.

In the meantime, Eby acknowledged his party will continue to accept corporate and union donations. He justified this by saying if the party unilaterally decided to stop collecting donations and the B.C. Liberals continued to collect, the Liberals would accumulate a competitive advantage.

"We're playing by the rules as they exist right now. We're working as quickly as we can to amend those rules," he said.

Eby said he expects the bill to be introduced during the fall legislative session, although he said the exact timing is unclear at this point.

With files from The Early Edition