One thing that BC Liberals have mastered in this 39th Parliament is self-destruction. Oh, it’s been brewing for a time but, like an aging airliner, this government is about to be grounded due to irreparable fatigue. The current stress concentration may be the Kash Heed appointment and resignation, x2, but that will be dangerous to the Liberals by causing citizens to carefully examine election funding and the role of influence peddlers.
The BC Liberal Party spent $12.1 million to conduct the province-wide campaign in 2009. If individual constituency expenditures are included, the total heads toward $20 million. I challenge anyone to explain why we should be concerned only about a single donation of $1,000 and not the sources of the remaining $19.999 million.
There are major problems in the political financing system of British Columbia but, let’s be clear. The fact that Harper Grey LLP donated $1,000 to Kash Heed’s election campaign is one item of minor significance. Harper Grey is a partnership of more than 50 lawyers and that one donation by the partnership represents a $20 bill from each of them. Given our system of campaign finance, that is minuscule in relation to the big picture. And, the donation was disclosed clearly and properly on Heed’s Election Financing Report filed August 7, 2009.
Elections BC publishes campaign finance reports for candidates and parties. The reports are posted as image files, not data files that can be sorted easily for analysis. That’s a shame and it suggests that someone would rather we didn’t bother. Nevertheless, a little time and diligence reveals interesting information.
Some of the funding comes in small amounts from individuals concerned about political principles but it mostly comes from people and entities with clear interests in dealing with a friendly government. It is also clear that many people donate through multiple vehicles. In one case, I counted 14 related companies each making four figure donations. The financial reports do not have to provide connections so individuals can (and do) give cash under their own name, their spouse’s name and multiple corporations or partnerships.
There are a few specific donations shown on the Liberal election return that need further review. For example, the BC Milk Marketing Board donated thousands. I object because that donation gets passed back to milk consumers in the form of higher prices. The BC Government created that agency, why is the governing party receiving money from them? Another payment seems strange. It was $20,000 from the “Hazardous Waste Joint Trade Training Trust Fund.” I don’t know what kind of Trust that is but I doubt that contributing to the BC Liberals election fund is appropriate. Anyone know more?
I’m willing to bet there are other connections than the ones I noted but Terry Hui, Concord Pacific and associates donated over $200,000 to the BC Liberal Party. I’m sure someone will correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the BC Government involved in a $1 billion project on lands adjoining Concord Pacific? Do we recognize one conflict of interest but not another?
Now consider how the mainstream media can become exercised over a small twist when the entire chain is distorted. Radio man John McComb called today’s news “a stunning development.” Really, it is damn insignificant. Fifty 50 lawyers donating $20 each to one Liberal sets hair on fire but lazy news jockeys don’t bother to examine the entire world of political finance. Michael Smyth knows better but he loves the easy stories as long as he can sneer his way through them.
It would take a little intelligence and effort but they could consider potential conflicts that arise when the energy industry, private power producers and land developers kick in millions of dollars to fund the entire Gordon Campbell regime, year after year.
In this province, poor people have a chance to get rich through the lottery but the chance of winning large is minuscule. Political bag men offer chances to rich people to get richer. Guess who gets the better odds?
I’ve written here before that the Criminal Justice Branch is corrupt and that the Special Prosecutor program is a fraud and has been from the start. Acting on SP Terry Robertson’s report with knowledge of the alleged conflict proves the CJB is also incompetent.
The members of the legislature need to stop shouting partisan insults and get down to the real business of campaign finance reform. Take the big money players out of the equation. A decision to authorize a mine, a pipeline or a port or to enforce environmental laws should not be influenced by bag men arriving with pockets stuffed with cash.
Additionally, the criminal justice branch has to be removed from the Attorney General’s department and the administration assigned to a Commissioner of Justice, appointed by and reporting to the legislature. That office should be charged with creating an accessible court system that treats every British Columbian by the same standards.