B.C. political parties will collect $3.25 million this year from a taxpayer subsidy based on votes received in the 2020 election, and the NDP government is moving to ensure that the payments will increase in future years.
Attorney General David Eby presented legislation Wednesday to make the annual allowance permanent, extending it beyond the original 2022 sunset clause and adding a cost-of-living measure to increase it in future years. The bill adopts the recommendation of an all-party committee that heard views on the subject this spring.
Premier John Horgan introduced the per-vote subsidy at $2.50 per vote after the 2017 B.C. election, reversing a campaign promise that getting “big money” donations from business and unions out of politics would not lead to a subsidy. The payment has since declined to $1.75 per vote, with reimbursement of half of each parties’ election expenses on top of that.
A 2022 sunset clause was put in place to expire after the next scheduled election. After the snap election of October 2020, the B.C. NDP collected more than $2 million in election expense reimbursements, while the B.C. Liberals collected more than $1.5 million and the B.C. Greens got back more than $300,000. Combined with the annual per-vote subsidy, the program pays out as much as $30 million over four years to parties in what Horgan referred to as “a transition fund that will be gone by the end of this mandate.”
After the 2017 election, the defeated B.C. Liberal Party voted against the subsidy, but was the largest beneficiary after it passed, collecting nearly $1 million based on getting the largest number of votes received in 2017.
The MLA committee heard a series of submissions from the B.C. NDP, lobbying their own majority government, and the B.C. Federation of Labour, calling for the subsidy to continue. NDP representatives said the subsidy should be continued and go back up to $2 per vote, indexed to inflation. The union group said it should be raised back to the $2.50 mark, to add to voluntary personal donations up to $1,200 per year, for which individuals receive tax credits of up to 75 per cent.
The only other party represented in the public hearing was the Libertarian Party of B.C., which called for all subsidies to be ended. The B.C. Taxpayers Federation brought its campaign to end the subsidy, noting that a similar federal program was wound up in 2011, with parties fundraising on their own through the last three general elections.
“A $100 donation to Ronald McDonald House gets a tax credit of just over $20, whereas a $100 donation to a political party gets a tax credit of $75,” Kris Sims, the federation’s B.C. director, told the committee. “Isn’t a tax credit that’s three or four times more lucrative and generous than a charity that helps sick children’s families enough for the political parties of B.C.?”