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

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

WATCH: The NDP government is reeling from reaction to its new bill that gives B.C.’s political parties public subsidies. Mary Griffin reports. 

Under attack in the legislature, Premier John Horgan defended the decision to spend taxpayer funds to get big money out of provincial politics as an appropriate use of taxpayers dollars.

Putting on a brave face, the Horgan and the rest of the NDP went into question period, bracing for what they know is going to be a full frontal attack from the opposition.

Abbotsford West MLA Mike de Jong started immediately with questions to the premier.

“Was it his idea to break his word to British Columbians and force them to fund political parties?” De Jong asked. “Or was the decision forced upon him by members of the subsidiary?”

The premier was on his heels defending a key detail in his government’s new legislation. That is a taxpayer subsidy for B.C.’s political parties to the tune of $11 million over the next five years.

“I’m unapologetic about wanting to get big money out of politics,” Horgan said. “I’m unapologetic about having a transition fund that will be gone by the next election.”

But Dermod Travis, with Integrity B.C., a political watchdog, says there is no rationale why political parties need taxpayers’ money.

“When I look at the fundraising numbers in the province when I look at how much money parties spend in the province, I’m hard-pressed to make much of a case that they need any public subsidy whatsoever,” Travis said.

The subsidy would end in 2022 unless a parliamentary committee extends it.

After refusing to answer questions Monday, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver today defends the decision.

“We support the notion of the transitional funding. We did not bring that to the table,” Weaver said.  “We support the idea of building on best practices. Other jurisdictions, most other provinces have something like this.”

But critics such as Travis pointed out, that it’s tough for BC’s political parties to quit the gravy train.

“They’ve gotten so accustomed to big money that they kind of enjoy it. And they don’t want to see it all go away,” Travis said. “Well, other parties in other provinces survive with far less in real terms and per capita terms.”

Back at the legislature, based on the fireworks between the opposition and NDP, it’s likely to continue as Liberal MLA Mike de Jong once again targets the premier.

“If anyone thinks that after five years, the NDP and Green Party are going to turn off the tap on public funding of political parties, I’ve got a bridge in Richmond that I’d like to sell them,” De Jong said.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!