The Government of British Columbia is moving forward to reform the province’s electoral financing system through independent and regular review as well as introducing legislation to make the system among the most transparent in Canada.
Amendments to the Election Act tabled today will introduce real-time reporting of contributions and include new rules for how fundraising events and political contributions are reported so that the public can see who is donating to any political party.
Key measures include:
- Lowering the threshold for reporting political contributions from a single contributor to $100 (currently it is $250).
- Reporting contributions to major political parties, candidates and constituency associations within 14 days of their deposit, including the nature of the contribution (whether it is a donation, a ticketed event or a sponsorship).
- Fundraising functions must be posted on the political party’s website within five days of the event.
- A penalty of $10,000 for failing to publish fundraising information as required.
The amendments in this legislation will also give authority for the chief electoral officer to publish disclosure reports and other financing reports online.
“We intend to strengthen transparency, which is a core principle of our system,” said Premier Christy Clark. “Equally important is that taxpayers should not have to subsidize political parties – and those are the principles that will guide us as we take new steps to make sure our electoral financing system evolves reflecting the values of British Columbians into the future.”
Premier Clark has instructed the deputy attorney general to develop a framework for an independent panel to regularly review B.C.’s electoral financing system and make recommendations for reform to the legislature.
The independent panel would be modelled on existing bodies such as the Electoral Boundaries Commission and would provide a venue that is above partisan politics to achieve reforms that are fair, effective and accountable to citizens. Key elements would include:
- Selection to the expert panel must be unanimously approved by the legislature.
- The independent panel will make recommendations every eight years after reviewing submissions from political parties, MLAs and the public as well as reviewing reforms and procedures in other jurisdictions.
- Current proposed legislation in B.C. as well as other reforms proposed by the federal government would be included in the review.
The deputy attorney general’s work would be completed in the summer of 2017 and would form the basis of legislation to be introduced immediately afterwards. The independent panel would commence its work following the passage of legislation into law.
“These reforms build on our government’s strong track record of strengthening transparency in our electoral system,” said Attorney General and Minister of Justice Suzanne Anton. “We were the first to adopt a lobbyist registry, the first government in Canada to set a fixed election date, and the first to set spending limits for parties and candidates.”
- British Columbia would become, along with Ontario, the only Canadian jurisdictions that require real time reporting of political contributions.
- B.C. has spending limits on parties during election campaign periods, regardless of how much parties raise. In the last election, it was $4.6 million for political parties and $73,000 for candidates.
- B.C.’s current electoral financing system has largely been in place since 1996.
Stephen SmartPress Secretary
Office of the Premier
Government Communications and Public EngagementMinistry of Justice
The amendments to the Election Act will increase transparency in how parties, candidates, and constituency associations report fundraising events and contributions.
The changes apply to major political parties that raise more than $50,000 in a calendar year, candidates of major parties or who raise more than $10,000 in relation to their candidacy, and constituency associations of major parties those that raise more than $10,000 in a calendar year and those that support an independent member of the legislative assembly.
There are exemptions for smaller parties, constituency associations and independent candidates.
For fundraising functions with a ticket price greater than $100:
- All parties, candidates and constituency associations must record and report contributions received from ticket prices and sponsorships at such functions.
- Major reporting entities must publish information on party website within five days after the event.
- Details include date, time and location of the function, and on whose behalf it was held.
- Penalty if not posted on time or for the required length of time is $10,000.
Penalties for failing to report contributions in 14-day disclosure reports:
- Late filing fee $100 if filed within 28 days of deadline.
- Half the amount of contribution if reported after late filing period but before next annual or election financing report due.
- Full amount of contribution if reported after next annual or election financing report due.
Federal taxpayers rebate 50% of federal election campaign expenses for political parties and rebate up to 60% of riding campaign expenses for federal candidates, which was $60.4 million in 2011. The costs to taxpayers for the 2015 federal election campaign are projected to be higher, given individual riding payments have not yet been completed, the longer campaign period and higher spending limits: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rep/off/sta_2015&document=p2&lang=e
Jurisdictions that have capped contribution limits and replaced them with taxpayer-funded per vote subsidies include Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia: http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=loi/com/arc/com2016&document=p6&lang=e#1