British Columbia

'They're trying to milk the system': NDP government criticized by Greens for pricey fundraisers

A big-ticket dinner planned for the BC NDP in September has reignited debate over political fundraising in B.C

The NDP party is hosting a $525-a-plate dinner Sept. 22 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver

Premier John Horgan attended a $500-a-ticket golf fundraiser at Bear Mountain Resort on Thursday. (Sait Serkan Gurbuz/The Associated Press)

A $525-a-plate dinner planned for the provincial NDP in September has reignited the debate over political fundraising in B.C.

The event — pegged as a "leader's levee" for Premier John Horgan — is on Sept. 22 at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. It costs $325 to attend under the earlybird rate, but starting Saturday the cost will be $525.

Groups of up to seven people can also book tables for $3,000.

Green Party leader Andrew Weaver was critical of the fundraiser on Thursday.

"The reality is they're trying to milk the system as much as they can," Weaver told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.

Listen to the full interview with Andrew Weaver.

Last year's dinner raked in nearly $193,000 for the NDP, the vast majority from organizations, according to the party's campaign-finance report.

On Thursday, Horgan also attended a $500-a-ticket fundraiser at Bear Mountain Resort.

The NDP vowed in this year's election to ban union and corporate donations after routinely condemning cash-for-access events put on by the B.C. Liberals, and repeated their pledge under a formal agreement with the Green Party in May.

The latest fundraisers show poor leadership, Weaver argued.

"It sends a signal to the public that you're not willing to do as you say."

NDP planning 'comprehensive' legislation

But B.C. NDP president Craig Keating said the party plans to introduce "comprehensive" electoral finance legislation — including limits on individual donations — once the fall session starts Sept. 8.

Until then, the government is abiding by the current rules, Keating said. 

"There's no cash-for-access here," he said.

"This is a simple fundraiser that's been held ten years in succession. It's no different than anything [Horgan] has done before." 

It's unclear when the legislation will be pushed through, or whether it will retroactively apply to donations after the NDP formed government in June. 

Keating said the government is taking a "detailed" approach to the reform. 

The B.C. Green Party began refusing union and corporate donations in Sept. 2016. The party still accepts individual donations, including a $20,000 donation this year.

Weaver said he'd like to see the province employ a similar campaign finance model to Quebec, where individual donations are capped at $100.

With files from Dan Burritt and CBC's On The Coast